The University of North Carolina system reported its first-related student death on Tuesday since several campuses reopened with at least partial in-person learning last month. Chad Dorrill, a 19-year student at Appalachian State University who his mother and former coach described as a “super healthy” athlete, died on Monday due to coronavirus complications, officials said.
“Any loss of life is a tragedy, but the grief cuts especially deep as we mourn a young man who had so much life ahead,” said a statement from Peter Hans, chancellor of the system overseeing the state’s 16 public colleges and universities. “I ache for the profound sadness that Chad Dorrill’s family is enduring right now. My heart goes out to the entire Appalachian State community.”
Dorrill was a graduate of Ledford High School in Thomasvile, CBS affiliate WFMY-TV reports. His former high school coach, Jason Anderson, told the station it’s hard to come to terms with Dorrill’s death.
“This is a perfectly healthy 19-year-old kid that two years ago was running up and down the floor playing 30 out of 32-minute games,” Anderson said.
The Piedmont Pacers, a travel basketball team that Chad Dorrill played on, said Dorrill was their all-time leading scorer and member of the 2018 USSSA National Championship team.
Dorrill’s mother released a statement though the team. “The doctors said that Chad is the rarest 1-10,000,000 case but if it can happen to a super healthy 19-year old boy who doesn’t smoke, vape or do drugs, it can happen to anyone,” Susan Dorrill said, according to WFMY.
The university reported a new high of 159 current COVID-19 cases among students on Tuesday. Nearly 550 students have tested positive for the virus since in-person classes resumed last month. Appalachian State remains open for in-person instruction.
Three North Carolina colleges, including UNC-Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University and East Carolina University, have halted physical classes for undergraduate students, after reporting a series of coronavirus outbreaks shortly after students returned to campus. Nearly 1,000 UNC students have tested positive for COVID-19 since classes resumed in August. ECU surpassed 1,000 cases earlier this month, followed shortly thereafter by NC State.
In a message to the university community on Tuesday, App State Chancellor Sheri Everts reminded college students to take the virus seriously and follow public health guidelines.
“His family’s wishes are for the university to share a common call to action so our entire campus community recognizes the importance of following COVID-19 safety protocols and guidelines,” Everts wrote. “Despite generally being at lower risk for severe illness, college-age adults can become seriously ill from COVID-19.”