High school football player dies only days after COVID diagnosis, Tennessee family says

·2 min read

A Tennessee community is mourning after a 16-year-old student died from complications of COVID-19 over the weekend, multiple outlets report.

Azorean Tatum attended Westwood High School in Memphis and is being remembered as an “outgoing” young man who loved football and enjoyed making people laugh.

“He was very expressive and he was just the happy-go-lucky boy,” Azorean’s mother, Quintina Buckner, told the Commercial Appeal. “He loves his mom. He loved his family. He loved his friends. He was a football player, so they really loved him on the team.”

On Aug. 13, Buckner said she received a call from her son at school after he suddenly fell ill, WHBQ reported. Azorean, who went by “Zo” for short, told her that he was struggling to breathe and was so weak he could barely stand.

Paramedics rushed the teen to Baptist Children’s Hospital, where he was diagnosed with COVID-19, his mother told WREG. Azorean was treated and released after a short hospital stay, Buckner said, but his condition only worsened from there.

Zo became increasingly sick and was taken to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital where he died Saturday, just days after being diagnosed with COVID-19, the Commercial Appeal reported.

Buckner said her son had asthma and had received the first dose of the two-shot coronavirus vaccine series, according to the newspaper. She told WREG Zo was healthy before returning to class Aug. 9 and believes he may have contracted the virus at school.

“He wasn’t wheezing, he wasn’t coughing, he was just happy-go-lucky,” Buckner told the news station. “He was at school for three days, and he just drastically got sick. It’s unbelievable.”

McClatchy News reached out to Westwood High School on Tuesday and is awaiting a response.

The high school is part of the Shelby County School District, which requires face masks for all employees, students and visitors despite an executive order from Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee allowing parents to opt out of school mask mandates.

The district confirmed the death of a Westwood High School student but didn’t release a name, citing privacy concerns.

“Grief counselors are offering support for school students and staff,” the district said, according to a statement obtained by WHBQ. “We share our deepest condolences with the family during this time.”

Le Bonheur confirmed a child died of coronavirus over the weekend, the Commercial Appeal reported, marking the third pediatric death reported by the hospital in the last month.

“I was just heartbroken,” Buckner told WHBQ of losing her son. “I’m still heartbroken.”

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