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'People need to know it is real': North Carolina passes 5,000 COVID-19 deaths as pandemic worsens.

By Josh Shaffer and Lucille Sherman, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) on

Published in News & Features


After the first death on March 24 — a person from Cabarrus County — they hit all corners of the state and people of all ages and backgrounds.

These are just a few of the people whose loss left communities reeling.

— Irving McPhail, the new president of St. Augustine's University, who made an impression after just a few months of landing his dream job. He was 71.

— Sypraseuth Phouangphrachanh, better known as "Officer Bud," a 43-year-old school resource officer in Troy, whom students considered a superhero.

— Teicher Patterson, a 50-year-old principal from Halifax County, who dedicated his life to improving education in the state's poorer schools.


— Aurea Yolotzin Soto Morales, an 8-year-old who was born and raised in Durham. Known as Yoshi, she was the first pediatric COVID-19 death in the state on June 1 — and remains the only child under the age of 18 to die. The second-grader at Durham's Creekside Elementary School was playful and celebrated all of her birthdays at Disney World.

— And Chad Dorrill, a 19-year-old student at Appalachian State University, who was described as "super healthy."

With just 10,000 people, Jones County boasts the highest death rate statewide: 6% of those infected. Just north of Jacksonville, the county has one of the state's smallest populations, and interim health director Ann Pike knows some of the 15 who have lost their lives to COVID-19.

"I honestly think the ones that have been affected by the deaths and COVID itself are taking it a lot more seriously than the ones that haven't," said Pike, who contracted the virus herself. "People need to know it is real. It can be devastating to a person and to a family."


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