'Healthy' N.C. college student dies from COVID-19 complications, school officials say

Chad Dorrill, an exercise science major at Appalachian State, died Monday night from COVID-19 complications, school officials said.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2020
19-year-old Appalachian State University dies from COVID-19 complications, school officials say
19-year-old Appalachian State University dies from COVID-19 complications, school officials say

BOONE, N.C. -- A 19-year-old student at a university in North Carolina has died from COVID-19 complications, school officials said Tuesday.

Chad Dorrill, an Appalachian State University sophomore who was majoring in exercise science, died Monday night at a hospital in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, according to ABC-affiliate WSOC.

In a statement, Appalachian State Chancellor Sheri Everts said Dorrill lived off-campus and all of his classes were online.

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Everts said Dorrill's family shared he had been diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this month and suffered from later complications. He tested positive in his home county and after he returned home, Dorrill had additional complications and was hospitalized.

Many students on campus Tuesday were still in disbelief upon hearing the news.

"It definitely resonates with me," Liam Dunman told WSOC. "You don't hear about people our age dying from it at all, so it definitely got a little bit more real for me."

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Appalachian State currently has 159 active cases of COVID-19 on a campus of nearly 20,000 students. The university has taken precautions, including a face covering requirement, hand sanitizing stations and physical distancing in classrooms.

"I just heard of him from his passing, but it's definitely pretty upsetting to know that it can happen to people our age," said another student, Elise Eldridge.

WSOC reported seeing pop-up testing sites on campus Tuesday, but Dorrill's death has hit students hard, who thought their age was an advantage.

"Everyone says it's the older people it affects the most," said Briar Taylor. "But he was healthy, and seeing it happen to him makes me feel a little more worried about everything."

Dorrill graduated in 2019 from Ledford High School in Davidson County and was known as a talented basketball player, according to WSOC.

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"Chad Dorrill was a loved and well-respected member of the Ledford community and the Class of 2019," a spokesperson for Davidson County Schools said. "During his years at Ledford High School, he was an All-Conference basketball player who was both competitive and kind. He was enrolled at Appalachian State University in hopes of becoming a physical therapist. Our deepest and most heartfelt sympathy is extended to Chad's family, friends, and the entire Ledford community."

The full statement from Appalachian State University Chancellor Everts said:

"Dear Faculty, Staff, Students, Parents, and Families,

It is with the deepest sadness that I share with you that one of our students, Chad Dorrill, has died.

The hearts of the entire Appalachian Community are with Chad's family and loved ones during this profoundly difficult and painful time. Tributes shared by friends and loved ones show the positive impact Chad had on the communities he loved and called home, which included App State and Boone.

Chad's family has shared he had been diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this month and suffered from later complications. Chad lived off-campus in Boone and all of his classes were online. When he began feeling unwell earlier this month, his mother encouraged him to come home, quarantine, and be tested for COVID-19.

After testing positive for COVID-19 in his home county, he followed isolation procedures and was cleared by his doctor to return to Boone. It was after his return to Boone that he had additional complications, was picked up by his family and hospitalized. 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.

Despite generally being at lower risk for severe illness, college-age adults can become seriously ill from COVID-19. 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. We have stringent cleaning and safety protocols in place on campus, and our students, faculty and staff are following the 3Ws by wearing face coverings, maintaining 6 feet of distance from one another and washing and sanitizing their hands and work stations. 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. 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.

Remember that gatherings are limited to 25 people indoors and 50 outdoors, and that in those settings, it is still critically important to maintain distance and wear face coverings. The university and the Town of Boone are enforcing these restrictions, and each of us must take seriously our personal responsibility as well. With grace and with kindness, let's help one another to follow these important safety precautions. Information about prevention and testing options is available on the university's coronavirus website, where we also post the weekly campus email updates.

Please know there are many resources to help you cope with grief and stress as well as to provide you with support in a confidential setting. If you or someone you know needs assistance, please reach out.

In condolences to his family, many have shared their memories of Chad and said, "I wear my mask for Chad." Please let us all honor Chad and his contributions by taking care of ourselves and our community."