Chad Dorrill, a 19-year-old "super healthy" college student at Appalachian State University, died from COVID-19 complications Monday.
Dorrill returned home after feeling ill, and was cleared by his doctor to return to campus after recovering, only to get sick again.
He's the first reported death in the University of North Carolina school system, which has experienced an uptick in cases since in-person classes resumed last month.
The percentage of coronavirus cases among young people continues to grow in part due to college reopenings, which contributes to the disease's spread community-wide.
Chad Dorrill, a 19-year-old student at Appalachian State University, died Monday from complications related to COVID-19, the university reported.
Dorrill, who was a "super healthy" star basketball player in high school, according to his mom and former coach, is the first reported coronavirus death in the University of North Carolina school system, which includes 16 colleges and universities.
The death comes soon after some UNC campuses closed in-person classes due to increasing COVID rates, and as the proportion of young people infected nationally continues to climb.
"The doctors said that Chad is the rarest 1 in 10,000,000 case," Dorrill's mom, Susan Dorrill, said through her son's former travel basketball team, according to WFMY. "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."
Dorrill lived off campus and attended all classes online
According to a statement from the school system's chancellor, Peter Hans, Dorill lived off-campus and attended classes online. He started feeling sick in early September, and returned home near Thomasville, North Carolina, where he tested positive for COVID.
After following isolation procedures and getting cleared by his doctor, he returned to Boone, where Appalachian State is located. He then experienced more complications, the statement says, and his family picked him up and took him to the hospital.
"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," like mask-wearing, maintaining a 6 feet distance from others, and following strict sanitation guidelines, Hans wrote.
He said that while college kids tend to be lower risk for severe coronavirus complications, they can still get seriously ill from the virus.
"All of us must remain vigilant with our safety behaviors wherever we are in our community," Hans wrote. "We can flatten the curve, but to do so, we must persevere. From the smallest acts to the most important personal relationships, we must actively work each day to reduce the spread of this highly communicable disease."
Young people are making up a growing proportion of COVID cases, and college reopenings could be to blame
Appalachian State University is one of many colleges to report an uptick in cases since resuming in-person classes. On Tuesday, there were 159 COVID-19 cases among students — a new high.
While the school remains open, three others in the system have shut down in-person learning due to the increase.
A report out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tuesday, for one, found that another North Carolina university experienced "a rapid increase" in coronavirus cases within two weeks of opening the campus to students.
The study authors said student gatherings and living situations likely fueled the spread, which occurred despite some strategies like reducing the number of students in classrooms and dining halls.
Once the campus halted in-person learning, the case load declined.
Across the US, the percentage of young adults infected with the virus has spiked in recent months.
From June to August, for example, people in their 20s accounted for 20% of all COVID-19 cases, the highest of any age group, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In May, about 15% of cases were people in that age group.
The rise, due in part to college reopenings, is also contributing to the spread of the disease country-wide. Business Insider's Aria Bendix previously reported campus reopenings could be to blame for the nation's 3,000 new cases a day.
The answer isn't sending kids home where they could spread the virus to their communities, experts say, but emphasizing mitigation strategies like mask-wearing and continuing to drive home the message that no one is immune.
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