Appalachian State tells students to 'remain vigilant' after student dies from coronavirus complications

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A student attending Appalachian State University died after developing complications from the coronavirus, university officials said. 

Chad Dorrill was attending classes online and living off-campus in Boone, North Carolina, according to a statement Tuesday from Appalachian State University Chancellor Sheri Everts. The 19-year-old was diagnosed with the coronavirus earlier in September and later experienced complications from the virus, the university said. 

According to an account from his family, Dorrill was encouraged to return home to quarantine after he began feeling ill and later tested positive. After initially following quarantine procedures, Dorrill’s doctor cleared him to return to Boone, where the university if located.

However, upon returning, Dorrill experienced additional complications and was later hospitalized, the university said. 

“Despite generally being at lower risk for severe illness, college-age adults can become seriously ill from COVID-19,” Everts said in the statement. “As we approach the halfway mark to the last day of classes for the Fall semester, we are seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases in students.” 

Appalachian State, part of the University of North Carolina system, adopted a blend of face-to-face, hybrid and online courses for the fall semester. There are currently more than 180 active Covid-19 cases among students and employees at Appalachian State as of Wednesday, according to the university’s dashboard.

More than 600 students, employees and subcontractors have tested positive since March when the university began keeping track of cases.

“All of us must remain vigilant with our safety behaviors wherever we are in our community. We can flatten the curve, but to do so, we must persevere,” Everts said. 

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill canceled in-person classes in mid-August, only a week into its fall semester, after the percentage of total coronavirus tests returning positive spiked and the university ran low on quarantine space. “Most students” who had tested positive have experienced just “moderate” symptoms, according to the university. 

“Chad’s family asked that this moment stand as a stark reminder of how Covid-19 is deadly serious for all of us, even for otherwise healthy young adults. We have a heightened duty to one another in these extraordinarily trying times, and we all need to remain vigilant,” UNC system President Peter Hans said in a statement Tuesday. 

Dorrill is among the few college students who have reportedly died from the coronavirus since classes resumed this fall. However, tracking the number of students who have tested positive or died from the virus at universities has been difficult. Many institutions adopt different measures of reporting cases. 

A New York Times database last updated Friday has found more than 130,000 coronavirus cases and at least 70 deaths on college campuses since the beginning of the pandemic, though that number is likely an undercount. Most of the deaths occurred in the spring as the virus was sweeping through the country, and most of the deaths were employees, according to the database. 

In July, Penn State University announced that Juan Garcia, a 21-year-old student, had died from respiratory failure and Covid-19. The Times also reported earlier this month that Jamain Stephens, a student at California University of Pennsylvania, died of a blood clot after being admitted to the hospital with Covid-19 and pneumonia. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention didn’t respond to a CNBC inquiry about the number of university students who have been hospitalized or have died from Covid-19. 

Younger people are less likely to develop serious illness and die from the coronavirus, though underlying health conditions like diabetes or hypertension can increase someone’s risk for hospitalization, according to the CDC

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