A 17-year-old football player in Georgia said he plans to dedicate his senior season to his parents after they both died of COVID-19 just four days apart.
Rising senior Justin Hunter said he and his parents, Angie and Eugene, were just like any other American family trying to safely navigate the coronavirus pandemic.
‘When my mom would go to the store, she would be wearing mask and she would be wearing gloves,’ he told WSB-TV.
But two weeks ago, the entire family unexpectedly tested positive for the coronavirus.
Hunter was asymptomatic, but Angie and Eugene had developed severe symptoms that evolved at an alarming rate.
‘They became very sick and they had the clear symptoms,’ said Hunter. ‘Their temperatures skyrocketed. They had headaches. Horrible cough. They felt very lazy.’
The city of John Creek is nestled within Fulton County, the most coronavirus-inundated county in the state, with 18,079 confirmed infections and 398 deaths.
At first, Hunter said they quarantined inside their home separately but his parents health only got worse. They decided call an ambulance and his parents were transported to a local hospital.
Eugene Hunter, a 59-year-old musician, tragically died from coronavirus on July 26.
‘The last thing he said was, “I love you and I’m going to get better, and I’m going to keep fighting.”‘ said Hunter,
Angie Hunter, a 57-year-old human resources executive, died just four days later on July 30.
Before she passed away, Angie told her son ‘God has you.’
Hunter doesn’t know where they contracted the virus, only that he and his parents took all the recommended precautions.
On Twitter, Hunter shared a heartbreaking post that thanked his parents for ‘making me into the person I am today.’
‘Thank you for always pushing me in the right direction. Thank you for always giving me the strength to push myself past my limits. Thank you for all the good memories and all the good times we had together. Thank you for teaching me what love is. Thank you for everything,’ wrote Hunter.
The Johns Creek High School Football team, for which Hunter is a linebacker, asked the community to pray for the high school student during this difficult time.
Residents in Johns Creek and the surrounding areas are heartbroken.
‘Heartbroken that you’ve passed away. I’m carrying you all in my heart,’ wrote one woman on Eugene’s Facebook page after news of his death.
‘It was an honor to speak with you. Thank you for all the love you have shown to the world,’ another wrote.
In a Facebook post shared on Friday, a Georgia woman noted that Eugene was a former saxophone player for the local Mount Zion United Methodist Church.
‘This week, our brother and former saxophone player at Mount Zion, Eugene Hunter, passed due to complications from Covid 19,’ the post read.
‘Angie passed this week as well from covid, leaving their 17 year old son without parents. This is beyond heartbreaking and Justin needs our prayers!
‘Eugene was not only a great musician but had a kind heart!! We will miss you guys!’
Hunter told WSB-TV that his parents were beloved by the community and were always willing to help others who needed it.
‘They were just loving toward everybody. No matter what,’ said Hunter.
‘If you had a problem, they would be there to help you. You know that they had very big hearts and they would give without even thinking about getting anything back.’
The couple originally met in college and were married for 35 years before they died.
Hunter, a linebacker, said his parents supported his dreams of playing football in college and professionally.
‘Since I started playing, we always talked about me playing in college and then playing in the pros,’ he said.
‘They would have wanted me to keep going and get a scholarship and my schoolwork done.’
And it was that support that has inspired him to persevere through the grief and continue to move forward.
‘They never raised me to sit around and feel sorry for myself in any situation, and I just gotta keep going and pushing,’ said Hunter.
‘I know they’re happy up there and that’s what makes me happy.’
A GoFundMe was set up last week to help create a trust for Hunter that will ‘help provide basic life needs and enable him to pursue his educational dreams & aspirations.’
As of Monday morning, the fundraiser had collected $238,305 of its $300,000 goal.
‘Just seeing everybody all the people just donating and supporting like people from out of state people from different counties,’ said Hunter, who has plans to live with relatives for the time being.
‘It feels really good to know that I got people who have my back.’
After the realities of the pandemic hit home, Hunter has urged people to take public health guidelines seriously and to wear a face mask.
‘If you don’t wear it for yourself, wear it for the next person, because you could be saving that person’s life,’ he said.
According to Georgia’s COVID-19 dashboard, Fulton County has seen more than 4,000 new cases and recorded 1,758 hospitalizations.
Officials recorded 180 new cases on Sunday and found a seven-day average of 233.9.
Comparatively, Fayette County sits just south of Fulton County with 283 new cases in the past two weeks, 970 infections total and just 25 deaths.
Cases in Fulton County have skyrocketed in the past several weeks and, according to Georgia health data, have actually recorded more cases in July then when the pandemic first began.
Although there was a slight increase in April, cases in Fulton County did not begin to rise until after May – and then they shot up significantly.
For example, officials recorded 91 new cases on June 13 and one week later on June 20, 149 cases were confirmed.
This appeared to coincide with Gov. Brian Kemp’s previous orders for the state to enter Phase One of its reopening plan.
Georgia was among the first states to ease lockdown restrictions, despite much of the country still in the early stages of curbing the virus.
Atlanta, which is in Fulton County, has become embattled in a turf war between Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Gov. Kemp.
Last month, Bottoms attempted to revert Atlanta back to Phase One following a spike in cases, but Gov. Kemp overruled her decision by calling her orders ‘both non-binding and legally unenforceable.
As a whole, Georgia has recorded more than 170,000 coronavirus cases and 3,758 deaths.
Several states across the US have become inundated with coronavirus spikes, including California, Florida and Texas.
Dr. Deborah Birx, a White House coronavirus task force coordinator, said during a CNN interview on Sunday that America’s next phase in the pandemic is dependent on Southern and Midwestern states.
‘To everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus,’ said Birx.
‘If you’re in multi-generational households, and there’s an outbreak in your rural area or in your city, you need to really consider wearing a mask at home, assuming that you’re positive, if you have individuals in your households with comorbidities.
‘This epidemic right now is different and it’s more widespread and it’s both rural and urban.’
California recorded more than 500,000 infection and just under 10,000 deaths. In California, counties like Los Angeles have carried the brunt of the pandemic.
Florida came in just under that with 487,000 cases and 7,000 deaths. Miami was dubbed the new pandemic epicenter after New York City, the former epicenter, began mitigating infections.
The US overall has recorded more than four million cases over the last six months and a rising death toll of nearly 155,000.