ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. (KMOV.com) -- A St. Charles County student and athlete is fighting for his life in the hospital after contracting COVID-19.
On Aug. 28, senior Elijah Johnson rushed across the Fort Zumwalt East field, scoring a touchdown in his first game of the high school season. It was the first and last game he will get to play in all season because of COVID-19.
“I never would’ve thought that I would see my boy the football player, healthy kid go from running people over on the field to laid up in the hospital, struggling. It’s hard on me,” said Cynthia Johnson.
Now Cynthia Johnson, Elijah’s mother, champions for the lineman and running back bedside as he battles COVID-19.
On Sept. 1, Elijah tested positive for COIVD-19. After multiple trips to hospitals in St. Peters, he was airlifted to St. Louis Children’s Sunday where he is now in the ICU using a BiPAP machine to help him breathe.
“Without it, he cannot sustain his own air. [He’s] very lethargic. His fever has been all over the place,” she said. “Also, with him being laid up for days, he’s also acquired blood clots in both legs. He has pneumonia on top of the COVID. So, it’s hard."
News 4 asked Cynthia if she believes her son contracted COVID-19 at the beginning of the school year.
“I do, I do. I hate to say it but it’s the truth, I do,” said Cynthia.
Cynthia says with her son being 18, he made his own decision not to get vaccinated. It is something she now wishes she would have pushed him to do sooner.
“He brought it to me that he wanted to get vaccinated and then he got COVID,” said Cynthia. “And it hit him fast.”
Cynthia says Elijah had ambitions to play football in college, but it is a goal now more uncertain than ever as they wait to see when he can get out of the hospital and what long-term effects he may face.
"We want to focus on him getting better. Nothing else is more important than that right now,” she said.
The Fort Zumwalt School District tells News 4 they do not comment on the health status of a student but they did provide information regarding how contact tracing works in situations where students test positive.
The contact tracing process does include a student’s classmates, fellow bus riders, and/or teammates. Unless an exposed student meets one of the exceptions to full quarantine, that student is expected to quarantine for the full period, unless a negative COVID test is produced after the specified time.
Right now, the district does not enforce mask-wearing across all campuses, but they did recently make some adjustments for campuses with a higher number of cases.
Should a Fort Zumwalt School District have more than 4 percent of it's student population reported as Covid positive, masks will be required for all students and staff at that school for a specified period of time. Currently, Westhoff Elementary is requiring masks until at least Sept. 23.
Cynthia says it is frustrating to see school districts like Fort Zumwalt not enforce masks universally.
“We are not in a safe place in this country. In our county, in St. Charles county period. We are not safe we are not out of the woods. So, everybody really got laxed and that’s sad,” she said.
She urges parents to talk to their children about getting vaccinated and wearing their masks so more do not end up fighting like her son.
“These kids need to know that just because you’re young and healthy, it can happen to you too,” she said. "I have been vaccinated. I have a whole house that I have to consider, my mother my children, my grandchildren. So, I wish other people would look at it in that aspect and think of other people and not just themselves.”
As of today, 47 students are on full quarantine at East High, and 416 are in full quarantine in total across the district. Westhoff Elementary currently has the highest number of students in quarantine, 50, and with 45 confirmed COVID-19 positive cases since the start of the year.