'I took every single loss of life personally.' Brown County judge reflects on year of COVID

Brown County Judge Paul Lilly
Guest Contributor
Paul Lilly

Brown County Judge Paul Lilly touched on topics including Brown County's experience with COVID in an open letter to citizens.

What a year we had! No one expected 2020 to be such an historic year in so many ways.

Globally, we had the COVID-19 epidemic, civil unrest, social and economic shut-down and political divisiveness. Oregon had long-term nightly unrest and demonstrations and the De-Fund the Police movement was born. Looking back, we can say goodbye to much of that. Unfortunately, COVID-19 remains a source of dread for most of us.

The Coronavirus Disease epidemic exploded worldwide in early 2020. The very first case in Brown County was reported on March 18, 2020. The first Brown County COVID-19 death occurred on April 12, 2020. To date, there have been 4,365 COVID-19 cases in Brown County. Our highest weekly increase was recorded on January 8, 2021 with 297 new cases reported. Relief appeared on the horizon when, on December 23, 2020, the first publicly available vaccines arrived and were administered.

Our most recent records indicate that 11,605 persons in Brown County have received one dose, and 10,556 have been fully vaccinated. That means 32% of the county population aged 16 and above are vaccinated. Tragically, the most recent record indicates that 140 Brown County residents have lost their lives to the coronavirus.

I took every single loss of life very personally. I’ve spent most of my life in a police uniform and trained to run into the battle. It is not in my nature to not be able to fight an attacking foe. However, with COVID it was an entirely different type of battle. Like you, this hit me very hard and more often than not left me feeling powerless.

Indeed, we can look back with dread upon most of 2020 through the beginning of spring, 2021. Those times are past, but not forgotten. We can breathe a bit easier now, but we must never forget the lessons we have learned. We must carry with us forevermore, the wisdom we have obtained at such an unbelievably high cost. One life lost is too many, but 140 in a county of 38,000? Where do I even begin?

Now, finally, we are on the cusp of recovery. Celebrations for the birth of our great nation draw nigh. The weather has warmed, but not excessively. We’ve received good rainfall thus far. Government stimulus infusions into the national and local economies have benefitted millions of citizens. Life is looking so much better, this year than last.

Get out and enjoy the weather, the outdoors and all the recreational opportunities available. Take precautions, of course. The worst is behind us. Better days are coming!

It is time to begin putting life back to normal, or at least a return to as normal as we can after having endured the unthinkable. God bless each and every one of you. You are truly the best of the best and I am honored, deeply honored to be your County Judge. We have and we shall continue to overcome. We are one!