A 19-year-old student at Appalachian State University — a basketball player “in tremendous shape,” according to his family — died Monday night, apparently of neurological complications related to Covid-19, his family and the university said.
Chad Dorrill, a sophomore at the school in Boone, N.C., had been living off campus and taking classes online when he became ill with flu-like symptoms, Appalachian State’s chancellor, Sheri Everts, wrote on Tuesday in a statement to students.
Mr. Dorrill tested positive for the coronavirus on Sept. 7 and quarantined for 10 days with his family in Wallburg, N.C., before returning to Boone, according to an uncle, David Dorrill. He said after his nephew returned to college, he almost immediately began experiencing dramatic neurological problems.
“When he tried to get out of bed,” Mr. Dorrill said, “his legs were not working, and my brother had to carry him to the car and take him to the emergency room. The doctor said it was a one-in-a-million case — that they’d never seen something progress the way it did. It was a Covid complication that rather than attacking his respiratory system attacked his brain.”
Although colleges and universities have become hot spots in the pandemic, young, healthy people generally have been at lower risk for developing severe forms of Covid-19. Only a handful of deaths among American college students has been linked to the virus, including a football player at California University of Pennsylvania.
A New York Times database tracking the virus on college campuses has recorded at least 130,000 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic, mostly this fall, but only about 70 confirmed deaths, mostly in the spring among college employees.
David Dorrill said an autopsy was being conducted. Dr. Colin McDonald, chair of neurology at Forsythe Medical Center in Winston Salem, N.C., where Chad’s parents removed him from life support at 8 p.m. on Monday, said that the hospital and staff who cared for him were “devastated.”
“We are doing everything we can to figure out why this happened,” Dr. McDonald said.
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