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Latest from Sandra Parrish

    With personal protection equipment running critically low for doctors and nurses on the frontlines fighting coronavirus, one neighborhood in Hall County is doing what it can to help.
  • So how are small hospitals preparing in the event of an out breakout of coronavirus? One in north Georgia is prepping for its first case.  Fannin and neighboring Gilmer County still have no reported cases of coronavirus. But besides an emergency room in Gilmer, Fannin Regional Hospital is the only full-service hospital to serve residents in both counties.  Dr. Dillon Miller, Chief Medical Officer and Chief of Staff at the 70-bed facility, says multiple meetings are held daily with all the hospital’s departments to make sure they are up to date on every protocol or possible situation.  “We’ve limited the access points where people can come into the hospital so we can have the capacity to evaluate those coming in and out,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.  Once in, Miller says those with symptoms are segregated not only in the emergency room, but also inside the hospital once admitted.  “Certain areas of the hospital will be designated for patients that potentially have the COVID-19,” he says.  As for the small number of bed space compared to larger hospitals, he says that shouldn’t be an issue.  “It’s going to be less about spacing, because we have a lot of different places we can utilize, and more about more about those who become critically ill,” says Miller.  That’s because there are only so many respirators at the hospital. If it becomes overwhelmed with critically ill patients, they will have to be transferred to other larger facilities with whom the hospital already has partnerships.  “We’ve already reached out to those partner hospitals and they have scenarios and situations where they’ll be able to take on some of those patients as well,” says Miller.  He says the best preparation the hospital can have is urging people to stay home and not risk potential exposure, and if they do develop symptoms to call ahead first.  “By calling ahead, it keeps them at home where they need to be and at the same time it gives us a chance to adapt and adjust our people that are here so we protect our healthcare workers and protect our patients we’re seeing,” he says.
  • More than three years after a beloved game ranch in Gwinnett County closed, it’s about to reopen with a new look, many new animals, and new faces giving it life.  Jonathon and Katy Ordway bought the Yellow River Game Ranch not long after it was forced to close due to declining conditions. The couple, who live just a few miles away, wanted it preserved for their growing young family and have put their own money, sweat, and tears into making it even better.  “We’re very fortunate to have been able do it. It’s been very expensive… but it’s one of those jobs where every day I’m able to go home with a smile on my face; and I’m one of the lucky few people to do that,” Jonathon tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.  >>LISTEN TO SANDRA PARRISH’S FULL ON-AIR REPORT BELOW. Renamed, the Yellow River Wildlife Sanctuary, it’s home now to close to 100 animals--many of which the couple has happily taken in from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.  Many likely would not have survived otherwise including a deer hit by a car, an owl with encephalitis, an illegal serval who escaped its home in Buckhead, and a coyote, Willie, which was raised as a pet.  It’s now also home to Carmine, a rare black coyote who made friends with local dogs and was captured in East Cobb last month. After two more weeks in quarantine, Carmine will be introduced to Willie.  “We’re really excited because I think the two of them will do really well together,” says Katy.  The four bears at the sanctuary where original to the game ranch and used to be fined to a small caged concrete area. It was a dream of Jonathon’s to build them a natural habit with acres to roam as well as a waterfall and pond.  “When we first let them out, they didn’t want to come out of their cages. They just stayed inside. But after it warmed up a little bit, they came out and they explored a little bit and they explored a little bit farther; and finally, they found the waterfall and pond. Now they’re out there swimming around and playing in it. So, it’s really exciting for us,” says Jonathon.  The Ordways have hired staff from all over the country help them including Animal Manager Clint Murphy, who brings experience from other zoos.  “We were able to start building almost a dream team of keepers and educators to come out and flush out the dream the Ordways already have,” he says.  Now, after much anticipation, the sanctuary will open to the public April 3rd.  “It will be by reservations at first because we want to kind of take it easy on the animals, the systems, the people, everything. So, we’ll kind of limit the attendance each day,” says Katy.  The sanctuary will only be open Friday through Sunday the first few weeks. Visitors can make their reservations at www.yellowriverwildlifesanctuary.com.
  • After three days of searching along the Appalachian Trail in Dawson County, the body of a missing hiker has been found not far from where the trail begins at Amicalola Falls State Park.  Eddie Noonkester, 60, began his hike Friday but called a friend Sunday around 11 a.m. saying he was having medical issues. He then called 911 himself 30 minutes later saying he was disoriented.  Search teams found some of his belongings Monday afternoon after pinging his cell phone.  Dawson County Fire Chief Danny Thompson says his body was located Wednesday afternoon about a mile southwest of the hike-in trail. It was in an area with steep terrain that had not been previously searched.  “The team that actually found him… [it] was a team from Gilmer, Dawson… and Forsyth County,” he says.  Thompson would not release a possible cause of death but says Noonkester’s body has been taken to the state crime lab for an autopsy.  His brother, Wesley Noonkester, thanked emergency workers for their efforts. He actually came to the aid of another distressed hiker during his own search for his brother.  “It was not the outcome that I had hoped for. But at the end of the day our goal was to bring Eddie home, and we were able to do that,” he says.  Thompson says they have come the rescue of hikers along the trail before who suffered minor injuries or were lost, but never had such an extensive operation combining the efforts of multiple jurisdictions and more than 100 searchers.  He says the conditions have been treacherous the entire time.  “From heavy rain to lightening and now we’re looking at frozen precipitation up in this area and the rescuers and searchers have had to endure this,” says Thompson.  Wesley Noonkester says he will sleep well now knowing his brother is in a better place.
  • Search and rescuers will resume their efforts this morning along the Appalachian Trail in Dawson County looking for a missing North Carolina man.  Eddie Noonkester began his hike Friday at Amicalola Falls State Park, but called a friend Sunday saying he was having medical issues. The friend in turn called 911.  The 60-year-old then called 911 himself about 30 minutes later but couldn't give dispatchers his location and may have been disoriented.  Searchers pinged his phone in order to search the area where they did locate some of his belongings Monday afternoon.  “It’s a very, very treacherous area. The terrain is just very, very difficult. You couple that with heavy rains we’ve had… and will have over the next 72 hours,” says Dawson County Fire Chief Danny Thompson.  He says the Georgia Emergency Management Agency is assisting as well as multiple law enforcement agencies and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.  Volunteers who want to help can also email their information to dcsar@dawsoncounty.org.  “When you email into that address, leave your name, a contact telephone number, your availability and your experience level of hiking,” says Thompson.  He says Noonkester was planning to hike the Appalachian Trail all the way to Maine which usually takes about six months.
  • For a week, Vanessa Prior’s Great Pyrenees named Ruth Bader has had a friend--a black coyote that researchers have been tracking since late December when it was first spotted in Smyrna.  It ended up in Prior’s backyard in East Cobb, where for a week it would show up every morning to play with Ruth Bader.  “(They were) playing together and jumping in the pool and chasing each other,” she tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.  Wondering what the animal was, she posted on social media looking for answers.  “Was it a coyote; was it a fox; half dog-half fox? I really wasn’t sure,” says Prior.  It’s actually a melanistic coyote according to Chris Mowry, a biology professor at Berry College and co-founder of the Atlanta Coyote Project. He says while rare, it’s more common in the Southeast.  “In the West, for example, we rarely see black coyotes. But here in the Southeast, it’s in the gene pool,” he says. >>LISTEN TO SANDRA PARRISH’S FULL ON-AIR REPORT BELOW. The coyote’s affection for dogs may also be a genetic trait that’s been discovered in wolves and dogs that Mowry would like to learn more about.  “This potentially gives us the opportunity to look for this gene in this animal. We don’t know for sure, but [I] have some suspicions that perhaps there’s a genetic basis,” he says.  That’s why he enlisted the help of licensed coyote trapper Brandon Sanders of Sanders Wildlife Incorporated and Lara Shaw, a known dog trapper with Angels Among Us Pet Rescue.  Both set up cameras in Prior’s yard and like clockwork the coyote would appear every morning for her play date.  “Ruth Bader—she is the hero. Because if she hadn’t been playing with the coyote, we wouldn’t be here right now,” says Shaw. Within two days, the coyote was caught in one of two traps set up in the backyard of a home behind Prior’s house. Sanders transported it to the Yellow River Wildlife Sanctuary in Lilburn where it will live happily with another coyote and allow Mowry to continue his studies of it.  He had to get special permission for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to capture and relocate it.  “Biologists who study coyotes—we’re not in the business of capturing and relocating coyotes. But this was a unique situation in that this coyote was not acting aggressively but on the contrary was acting very friendly,” he says.  Prior says she’s happy the coyote will be saved but knows it will be missed.  “Ruth Bader is definitely going to miss her,” she says.
  • Gilmer County becomes the latest to declare itself a Second Amendment Sanctuary in a growing movement across the country to protect gun rights. The movement started in wake of anti-gun legislation being considered by the Virginia Legislature.  Jason Williamson of Ellijay joined a packed Gilmer County commission meeting Thursday night to present a petition with 700 signatures.  “It is clear that across the United States that we need to send a message to Washington D.C., state and local elected officials, that we, the people, do not want our right to bear arms infringed upon--period,” he told the commission.  Joene DePlanke, also of Ellijay, told commissioners it’s important for the county to join the movement.  “Our forefathers worked hard to give us these rights. And we just would like to make sure that Gilmer County is determined to protect our Second Amendment rights in the U.S. Constitution,” she said.  The three commissioners passed the resolution unanimously.  Chairman Charlie Paris tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish it’s important for all Georgia counties to come together on this.  “I don’t think that our current state folks would be threatening us. (But) I do believe the federal people, at any time, would love to start restricting gun rights,” he says.  Paris says the resolution makes a statement more than anything.  “That we’re opposed to this and that we would not willingly surrender our guns,” he says.
  • Facing budget cuts, the head of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation gives state lawmakers an option to stay on top of testing rape kits even with fewer scientists. Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposed budget includes the elimination of nine forensic scientist positions in the State Crime Lab something concerning to state Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta) whose bill four years ago now requires all rape kits be conducted in a timely manner. “This is something that is incredibly important, and we’re just not going to accept going backwards into creating a new backlog—we’re just not,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.
  • In his ongoing efforts to go after street gangs, Gov. Brian Kemp unveils new legislation that could have some of the most violent members facing the death penalty.
  • Former Gov. Nathan Deal has gotten his first look at the state’s new judicial building named for him. The Nathan Deal Judicial Center is the new home of the Georgia Supreme Court and the Georgia Court of Appeals. “The state of Georgia, I think can be very, very proud of this building and all that it signifies,” he says.  During his time as governor, Deal was essential in getting the $131 million in funding to build the six story, 215,000 square foot building at the corner of Memorial Drive and Capitol Avenue.  “This is a 100-year-old building. We intend to have this building for 100 years,” remarked Chief Justice Harold Melton before the tour for Deal and local media.  The building holds offices for 150 state employees who were crammed in a total of three buildings across the street from the State Capitol.  “Those who were close to it already knew that the quarters were very cramped in the old Law Building where they were located. Of course, as your recall, we expanded the size of both the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.  The new building features handmade desks and upholstered chairs made by inmates in Georgia’s prison system. It’s appropriate because Deal was a proponent of rehabilitation and giving prisoners a second chance at life.  “We have to make sure that those who are leaving our system have some skill sets and have as much support as possible so that they can make a successful entry back into civilian life. And to see those kinds of examples in person and in this building certainly is rewarding,” he says.  Deal met one of those former inmates, William Rutledge, during his tour.  “It is because of the rehabilitative programs that are in place within the Department of Corrections that I have become the man I am today,” says Rutledge.  The new building will also soon house Georgia’s new statewide Business Court championed by Deal as well. Cases are scheduled to begin in August.
  • Sandra Parrish

    News Anchor Reporter

    Sandra Parrish has been a reporter for WSB Radio since 1995 and covers political, legislative, transportation, and educational news. She graduated from the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism in 1989 and worked as an anchor/news director for WPLO in Lawrenceville, an anchor/assistant news director for WNGC in Athens and an anchor/reporter for WDUN in Gainesville before joining the WSB news team. Over the years, she has received over a dozen Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for "Best Use of Sound", "Best Series", and "Best Sports Reporting". She's also received numerous awards from the Associated Press, Georgia Association of Broadcasters, Society of Professional Journalists, and National Association of Black Journalists. Sandra is a former member of the board of the Georgia Associated Press Broadcast Association. She is married with two daughters.

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News

  • With more states imposing “safer at home” and quarantine orders because of the coronavirus, families and friends are searching for ways to stay connected. Sure, the telephone works, but more people are using video apps for face-to-face contact. It’s a good way for older citizens to connect with grandchildren without worrying about coming in contact. While hugs may be precious, people are becoming more aware of staying isolated. There are plenty of ways to connect. Here is a look at 12 video-chatting applications: Zoom: This app appears to be geared toward business, but families can use Zoom too. Users initiating a meeting are taken to a virtual room that looks like a table in a conference room. Personal groups of up to 100 people can meet online for free. Business options include packages for sale that allow up to 1,000 participants. Facebook Live: Viewers can connect in real-time from their cellphones, computers and even through their television set. FaceTime: This app, though the Apple store, allows users to make video and audio calls to groups of up to 32 people. FaceTime is available on Apple products including iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Facebook Messenger: Similar to FaceTime, Messenger allows free video calling around the world for individuals or groups of up to six. It can be used on cellphones, tablets and computers. Skype: This app has been around for a while. Skype can accommodate groups of up to 50 people worldwide, It can be used on computers, mobile devices, XBox One and even smartwatches. WhatsApp: More than 2 billion users take advantage of the WhatsApp. The mobile app works on Android and iOS platforms, making it a good choice for people with friends owning diverse types of devices. The free app allows groups of up to four users per session. Tango: You know the old phrase. It takes two to Tango, and this app restricts video contact to two people. This free app is good but only two! The free app is good for video calling one other person at a time. You can also make voice calls, send messages and play games using Tango. Google Hangouts: This app is free in its basic form. Google Hangouts allows up to 10 participants at a time. You can even video chat through your Gmail accounts. Instagram: Up to six people can video chat at once via Instagram. Houseparty: This video chat app is owned by Epic Games, which developed Fortnite. Houseparty allows people to play video games or test trivia skills through its interface. It is available through Android, iOS, MacOs and Chrome. Snapchat: With Chat 2.0, Snapchat users can use a full, featured video chat service. Snapchat is free to use, but can chew up a lot of data time. It is recommended to connect to a wireless network before making your call. Viber: The Viber app is good for international calls and one-on-one video calls. Calls between Viber users are free, but a fee will apply for calling people without the app.
  • Tom Coburn, a former U.S. senator from Oklahoma known as a conservative political maverick, died after a battle with prostate cancer, according to The Associated Press. He was 72. Coburn retired from the Senate in 2015 after being diagnosed with cancer. He served two terms from 2005 to 2015, KOKI reported. “Oklahoma has lost a tremendous leader, and I lost a great friend today,' U.S. Sen. James Lankford said in a statement. “Dr. Coburn was an inspiration to many in our state and our nation. He was unwavering in his conservative values, but he had deep and meaningful friendships with people from all political and personal backgrounds. He was truly respected by people on both sides of the aisle.” In the Senate, Coburn was the ranking member of the Committee on Homeland Security and also served on the committees on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; and Intelligence. From 1995 to 2001, Coburn represented Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. A family physician, Coburn was a member of the Committee on Commerce, where he sat on the subcommittees on Health and Environment as vice-chairman, Energy & Power, and Oversight and Investigations. Coburn was also selected co-chair of the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS in 2001. Services for Coburn have not been announced, KOKI reported.
  • Florida senior citizens who live in a downtown Orlando high-rise flickered the lights of their apartments Friday in a show of support for the doctors and nurses who are trying to thwart the spread of the coronavirus. Residents of Westminster Towers flickered their apartment lights at 9 p.m. to show support for the medical professionals working at Orlando Health. “Tonight, we flashed all of our lights to show our thanks to the hero health care workers at Orlando Regional Medical Center as they work hard to treat the sick and keep us safe from COVID-19,” Westminster Towers said on Facebook. “Thank you.” The display could be seen from the hospital campus, which is near the apartment building. “Thank you (Westminster Towers) for lighting up the night and our hearts,” the hospital network said on Facebook. “We’re all in this together.”
  • The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Georgia climbed to 2,366 Saturday as the state’s death toll reached 69. Since Friday evening, the confirmed number of Georgians who have died as a result of COVID-19 increased by four, according to the latest data from the Georgia Department of Public Health.  » COMPLETE COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Georgia Health officials also confirmed an additional 168 cases since the 7 p.m. update. Of Georgia’s overall cases, 617 people remain hospitalized, a rate of about 26%, according to the state’s noon figures.  Fulton County still has the most cases with 373, followed by DeKalb with 240, Dougherty County with 205, and Cobb with 181.  As of Monday, the number of confirmed cases across the state was fewer than 1,000 Since Friday evening, Fulton has 26 new cases, while DeKalb has 21 more and 18 more people tested positive in Cobb. Four counties also reported their first cases, including Murray, Walton, Jenkins and Pike.  » MORE: City under siege: Coronavirus exacts heavy toll in Albany A total of 11,051 tests have been conducted so far in Georgia. About 21.4% of those returned positive results. On Friday afternoon, the DPH started releasing data on where people died. Dougherty County leads the count with 13 deaths, followed by Fulton with 12, Cobb County with eight, and Lee County with five. About 2.9% of Georgians who have tested positive for the highly contagious disease have died. » DASHBOARD: Real-time stats and charts tracking coronavirus in Georgia For most, COVID-19 causes only mild or moderate symptoms. Older adults and those with existing health problems are at risk of more severe illnesses, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover in a matter of weeks. As numbers spike across the state, Gov. Brian Kemp is urging Georgians to stay home and practice social distancing. At a town hall broadcast Thursday evening, Kemp told residents to heed directives to avoid more restrictive measures, such as a statewide stay-at-home mandate. » RELATED: Kemp urges Georgians to heed virus warnings but balks at drastic steps Bars and nightclubs remain closed across the state, many public gatherings are banned, and the elderly and medically fragile are ordered to shelter in place. » PHOTOS: Metro Atlanta adjusts to shifts in daily life amid coronavirus crisis Many metro Atlanta cities and counties have issued their own stay-at-home orders to residents, shutting down nonessential businesses and imposing curfews. » MORE: DeKalb County issues stay-at-home order Speaking on CNN Saturday morning, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said metro Atlanta’s hospitals are already nearing capacity.  “...We are a large urban city in an even larger metropolitan area, so on a good day our hospitals and our ICU beds are at a premium,” she said. “What people have to realize is strokes don’t stop, diabetes and these things that send people into our emergency rooms, these things continue. It’s stressing our health care system and you add this pandemic on top of it and we have a real problem of it brewing right here in Atlanta.” » RELATED: Bottoms: Stay home so others ‘have an opportunity to simply live’ Those who believe they are experiencing symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19 are asked to contact their primary care doctor or an urgent care clinic. Do not show up unannounced at an emergency room or health care facility. Georgians can also call the state COVID-19 hotline at 844-442-2681 to share public health information and connect with medical professionals.  — Please return to AJC.com for updates.
  • He has been a prominent face during the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefings. Now, Anthony Fauci’s face is prominently featured on doughnuts in a New York shop. According to WHAM-TV, Donuts Delite, in Rochester, introduced the sweet treat Monday as a tribute to Fauci, 79, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a doctor for the National Institutes of Health. Nick Semeraro, owner of Donut Delites, said his employees have made “thousands” of doughnuts, the television station reported. “We wanted to find a way to cheer up the people in our neighborhood,” Semeraro told CNN. “We noticed Dr. Fauci on (television), and we loved his message and how thorough he was, and how he kept everyone informed during the crisis... so we wanted to give back and say thanks.” The shop printed Fauci’s face on edible paper and put it on top of a buttercream-frosted doughnut, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported. Fauci’s image was then encircled with frosting decorated with red, white and blue sprinkles, the newspaper reported. “Right now, we’re selling over 100 an hour at least,” Semararo told WHAM. “We had no idea they would blow up like that. “It just started as a tribute,” Semararo told the television station. “It started as a thank you. It’s sticking, and I think it’s great. People are stuck at home and what’s happening is, it’s starting conversations. Whether they pick it up for someone, it starts that thinking outside of the box and giving back.” Semararo said he would continue to make the doughnuts as long as there is a demand. “I never met a guy that worldwide (who) is so loved,” Semeraro told CNN. “And a month ago, we never knew his first and last name... His political agenda is medical. It’s facts ... the American public needs facts now.”
  • The chief executive officer of Texas Roadhouse restaurants said he is giving up his salary and bonus so the chain’s front-line employees can be paid during the coronavirus pandemic. Wayne Kent Taylor will begin donating his checks from the pay period beginning March 18 through Jan. 7, 2021, Market Watch reported Wednesday. Louisville Business First reported Taylor’s total compensation package in 2018 was $1.3 million with his base salary being $525,000. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Texas Roadhouse said it is also suspending its dividend in an effort to conserve cash during the pandemic, according to Market Watch. Texas Roadhouse, a publicly traded company based in Kentucky, employs more than 56,000 workers and has 563 locations in the U.S. and internationally, the website reported. Taylor, 63, founded the chain in 1993, opening his first restaurant in Clarksville, Indiana, USA Today reported.