Town of Irmo mourns loss of police chaplain after long-fought battle with COVID-19

IRMO, SC (WOLO) — In the Palmetto State, 55 new deaths from COVID 19 were announced by DHEC today.

There have been over 11,000 deaths since the pandemic started. One who died this weekend will be greatly missed in the town of Irmo.

“This is no joke. COVID 19 is no joke. The delta variant is no joke,” said Irmo mayor Barry Walker.

Recently, younger people have been impacted by the virus. One of those was 46-year-old Billie Bright.

“The town of Irmo is a close-knit and small organization,” said town administrator Courtney Dennis. ‘We know each other very well.”

Dennis served as police chief before becoming the town administrator. He has fond memories of the police chaplain he appointed.

“Billy was just a magnificent person who touched a lot of people’s lives,” he said. “He’s going to be missed.”

It’s why Mayor Barry Walker considered mandating vaccines within the police department. However, with 90 percent of the force vaccinated, he has decided to leave that decision up to individuals.

“We always have the right to make decisions. That’s what makes America, America,” Walker said. “We can make a decision to get the vaccine or not get vaccinated. All I’m saying is that the science is proven. If you get the COVID vaccination, you have a greater chance of surviving and not having an episode of going to the hospital, going on a ventilator or dying.”

With a big event coming up next weekend in the town, he hopes Irmo residents and visitors remember that we’re still in the middle of a pandemic.

“Even at the Okra Strut coming up, we hope that people take precautions by wearing masks, not mingling together in big crowds and getting vaccinated before they come if they haven’t already,” the mayor said.

Mayor Walker has pre-existing conditions and got COVID last September before a vaccine was available. He says not getting vaccinated not only puts you at risk, but others in the community. It also puts more strain on the healthcare system.

“What are you going to do? You’re going to be at risk of not being able to get medical care because they are full with COVID patients,” Walker said.

A graduate of Eau Claire High School, Billie Bright will be remembered for his warm laugh and love of the Bible. posting motivational videos often on Facebook.

His funeral will be held Friday at a baptist church in Columbia.

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