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Latest from Sandra Parrish

    A 12-year-old Decatur boy is using his music to thank healthcare workers at a nearby hospital for all they’re doing to fight COVID-19.  Nearly every night for the past month, Jason Zgonc has been playing his trumpet at shift-change at Emory Decatur Hospital. He’s only missed a couple of nights, so far, due to weather.  “I think they have a really hard job, especially at this time, because of all the people getting sick,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.  He and his mom, Karen Zgonc, got the idea after seeing videos of musicians in New York serenading hospital workers there from their apartments.  “There’s actually a New York City trumpet player who was playing trumpet off the rooftop of his apartment,” Zgonc recalls. “And I was showing these videos to my son and we kind of just decided, ‘Hey we live right down the street from Emory Decatur Hospital, what if we went and played for them?’”  >>Listen to Sandra Parrish’s full on-air report below. Jason’s talent comes naturally. Karen owns Ztunes Music, which teaches music lessons, in Atlanta and his dad, Nathan, plays trombone in the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. He sometimes joins his son playing outside the hospital.  The sixth grader plays for his band at Renfroe Middle School and made the Georgia Middle School All-State Band. He was also a semi-finalist for the 2020 National Trumpet Competition that unfortunately got cancelled due to the pandemic.  “I love playing the trumpet because I think I’m good at it and I like the way it feels in my hands,” says Jason.  Karen says right now he has no plans of ending his mini-concerts which begin around 6:45 p.m. and go until just after 7 p.m.  “Originally we didn’t know if we were going to do this every day or maybe just once. And after one time, he got in the car and asked to go back,” she says.  Jason isn’t sure what his future holds when it comes to music, but he does have some definite goals.  “I want to play the National Anthem at a Braves game and I also want to try to beat my teacher for a job,” he says with a chuckle.
  • With grocery stores and even Costco now limiting the amount of meat customers can buy, many people are now turning to local butchers and meat processors.  Angela Haas and her husband live just up the road from Findley’s Butcher Shop in Cartersville. They have been regulars who like to buy local.  “It’s been really convenient to know we can come here any time and it’s been really nice with the grocery stores empty. People kind of forget about these places,” she tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish. >>LISTEN TO SANDRA PARRISH’S FULL ON-AIR REPORT BELOW. David Widaski Jr, CEO of Widaski Meats which is Findley’s parent company, says business has been booming since Georgia’s public emergency was issued two months ago.  “Once Gov. Kemp actually went on at 4 o’clock, I believe, from 5 (o’clock) on, we basically doubled our day’s sales. And every day since then, each week has basically been a month’s worth of sales,” he says. New customers are are turning into repeat customers.  “People that had never shopped with us before, we’ve now seen five, six, seven times since then,” he says.  David Waldrep, owner of Waldrep’s Meat Processing in Ellijay is seeing people from metro Atlanta come to buy his meats. And he’s expecting even more to come since Costco announced this week it’s limiting meat purchases.  “Once those friends tell their friends, it’s going to be even more until we can get these big grocery stores filled back up,” he says.  Georgia White recently discovered Waldrep’s where she buys bacon, sausage, ground beef and steaks. She now prefers local over grocery stores.  “You feel safer. You kind of know what you’re getting here. You never know what you’re getting in the store,” she says.  Neither Waldrep’s nor Findley’s has limits right now on how much customers can buy. But Widaski says the price his company pays for the product it sells could impact availability.  “The price per pound at our cost is going up so much that we’re having to pick and choose,” he says. “Am I going to charge the customer a certain price, which we believe is outlandish, that it would be a disservice to the customer?”  Waldrep, who is among Findley’s suppliers, doesn’t expect to run out of meat to process and urges customers not to panic buy.  “I want them to get as much as they want. As long as we’re healthy and have a healthy plant, we’re still going to butcher every week and they’re going to be taken care of,” he says.
  • An Atlanta man who survived COVID-19 is telling his story of survival and the drug he believes may have saved his life. On April 19, Bill Clark was wheeled out of Emory St. Joseph’s Hospital with a line of doctors and nurses applauding him with the theme to “Rocky” playing in the background. The 57-year-old attorney had checked in just four days earlier.  “I honestly cannot do justice trying to describe just how emotional it was. I completely lost it when I got in the car with my wife and could barely speak. I said, ‘I’m just so thankful to be alive’,” describing the moment to WSB’s Sandra Parrish.  Clark was admitted on April 15, more than a week after he started having symptoms including congestion, headache, bad cough, and a fever between 101-102 that “just wouldn’t go away.”  Having been in contact with his doctor for more than a week, he was urged to go to Emory St. Joseph’s for testing. It was something that he had been avoiding.  “A hospital was the worst place to go it seemed like. You know stories all over the county and all over world of people going into the hospital and dying or at least being subjected to a bunch of other sick patients,” he recalls.  Already sleeping and eating apart from his wife and daughter for nearly a week, he decided to heed his doctor’s advice and head to the hospital. With scans and x-rays indicating pneumonia, he was admitted. By the next day, his test for COVID-19 came back positive.  As bad as he felt, when his doctor approached him about being part of a clinical trial being conducted by Emory University for a drug called Remdesivir, he was initially reluctant.  He recalls telling his doctor, “You know doc I’d love to be helpful as you guys are trying to figure this out. But frankly, I’m in the hospital and I’m sick and I’m kind of terrified of what’s going on. I want a treatment. I don’t really want the placebo. I want a treatment.”  >>Listen to Sandra Parrish’s full on-air report below. But Clark ultimately agreed to participate not knowing if he was being given the drug or a placebo. Four days later he was able to walk out of the hospital. He still doesn’t know which one he received.  “I’m more than two weeks out of the hospital and they either don’t know or won’t tell me,” he says.  Clark also doesn’t know how he caught the virus. He is healthy and had recently lost weight and thought he was taking all the safety precautions so as not to get it. He does recall a quick run into a restaurant without a mask to pickup food and an encounter at a grocery store with another shopper who wasn’t practicing social distancing.  But even though he has had the virus, he’s not ready to return to his pre-social distancing days just yet. He is worried he could catch it again.  “I’m going to continue practicing social distancing for quite some time and so is my family,” says Clark.  He also has a message for others who haven’t had it or don’t know anyone who has.  “It only takes one exposure to wind up positive for COVID-19 and possibly dying from it. People stay home,” he says.
  • The University of Georgia wants to document your experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic for posterity purposes.  The university’s special collections libraries are collecting experiences and responses from Georgians to preserve for generations to come.  “People can kind of share how this crisis has impacted them, their family, their business, their education, (and) their well-being,” says UGA archivist Steve Armour.  He tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish digital submissions can include personal reflections, photos, poetry, or even recordings. The information will be stored virtually and may be later displayed during an exhibit in the Special Collections Building on the Athens campus.  “We will archive, and it will be saved for posterity… and become a tool for future generations to use for research and understanding of the time we’re living in now,” says Armour.  It’s not the first time the university has sought such contributions. A similar request was made several years ago during the Women’s March. But this will be the first large-scale request issued statewide for the school’s publicly accessible archives.  Those who contribute will retain copyright of their materials but must agree to allow perpetual license to the UGA Libraries to use the materials for scholarly and educational purposes.  You can submit items by visiting via the library’s website at libs.uga.edu/covid-collection. To donate physical items, you can send an email to sclib@uga.edu.
  • A newly built surge hospital within the Georgia World Congress Center should be ready to take in any overflow of COVID-19 patients by this weekend.  WSB’s Sandra Parrish was among the few reporters who got a tour the facility with Governor Brian Kemp Thursday.  At the cost of $21.5 million, the basement of the GWCC now holds 200 hospital beds. Each is surrounded by handmade plywood walls which are capable of expanding to hold as many as 400 beds if needed.  Non-intensive care patients can be brought there to free up space at hospitals statewide.  Kemp called on Adjutant Gen. Tom Carden to lead the effort.  “This was a joint interagency public-private partnership. And it just shows what can happen when you bring the public sector and the private sector together for the good of all Georgians at the direction of our governor,” he tells Parrish.  >>LISTEN TO SANDRA PARRISH’S FULL ON-AIR REPORT BELOW. Most of the money will be spent on medical staff. But how much the facility will actually be used remains a mystery.  So far Kemp says most hospitals, other than Albany, have not reached capacity with a peak date for cases in Georgia still two weeks away.  “That is the only place that I’m aware of in the state that’s had a bed-capacity issue. Everybody else, believe it or not, are below capacity. Even though their COVID patients are going up slightly, the demand for their bed spaces is continuing to go down a little bit,” he says.  Carden believes initial models predicting the number of hospitalizations may have been wrong.  “The models tell us today, even at the upper bands of ranges of the current model, we’re actually in pretty good shape right now. We weren’t in such good shape when the decision was made to build this facility,” he says.  Patients who are brought there will come via ambulance and be dropped at one entrance. Those who recover leave through a different door. There is very little co-mingling in between and no unapproved visitors.  “If you have something that happens when we do get to our peak time and our hospital bed capacity is nip-and-tuck, we’ll be glad we had a facility like this,” says Kemp.
  • With seven people dead and 23 others injured in what is believed to be two tornadoes that hit adjacent mobile home communities in Murray County Sunday night, emergency personnel are now turning to recovery mode. Fire and EMA director Dwayne Bain says that calls from the public have been pouring in with offers of help. Anyone interested can meet at Bagley Middle School Tuesday at noon to do just that.  “We’re going to stage everybody here. We’re going to try to be able to have some type of an assignment list for those volunteers willing to go out and help in the community,” Bain tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.  Governor Brian Kemp toured the devastation Monday afternoon and offered words of encouragement to the survivors.  >>LISTEN TO SANDRA PARRISH’S FULL ON-AIR REPORT BELOW. “I just told them we’d be praying for them, number one. I mean these are resilient people up here, but they’ve gotten a double whammy—a lot of them are out of work because of everything that’s going on with the coronavirus. And now to have this storm hit, it’s hard on them,” he says.  The ages of the seven dead range from 20 to 79. Three of those were from one family. All of the victims came from four different homes within the two mobile home communities.  Crystal Castillo and her brother Miguel were inside their mobile home on Ridgeview Lane when the second tornado hit. As he grabbed his two small nieces to head towards his sister, the trailer flipped and was tossed across the street in pieces. All four walked away.  “Honestly, we’re blessed. We just came out with some bruises and scratches. The girls are fine,” she says.  Scott Enke lives down the street and thought they had just been spared from the first tornado. That’s when he heard the noise from the second one and told his family to run to the bathroom.  “As soon as they got to the bathroom, I picked the dog up and went through the door to get into the bathroom. It blowed (sic) me through the door and the dog went somewhere. It lasted about two or three seconds and that was it,” he says.  The house was destroyed around them, but all survived including their dog.  In total, Bain believes between 50-60 homes were damaged or destroyed in the six-mile swath through the county.  “There’s some damage there that’s just… I mean there’s nothing left. It looks like it’s been run through the shredder,” he says.
  • A Gwinnett County community is coming together to help different groups in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Aimee Appling lives in Hamilton Mill in Dacula, a sprawling community of more than 2,000 homes in northeast Gwinnett County, and came up with the idea. Forced to shelter-in-place, she wanted to do something that could involve her four kids and help others at the same time.  “What we decided is that each week, we’re going to focus on a new need in the community,” she tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.  She created Compassion Stations, tables with bins on top and homemade signs encouraging neighbors to donate items for that week’s cause. The stations are up not only in her neighborhood, but each of the small subdivisions within Hamilton Mill. The number is now up to 15 and has spread to neighborhoods in Buford, Winder, and Hoschton as well.  Last week they collected much-needed items for the North Gwinnett Co-op, and this week they’re collecting healthy snacks for the doctors and nurses who work at the four hospitals operated by Northeast Georgia Health System.  “They’re needing protein bars, nuts… things that will sustain them because they’re not getting breaks; and if they do, it’s quick,” says Appling.  The stations are also collecting homemade masks using a specific pattern provided by the hospital or fabric and flat elastic to make them.  They began collecting the items Monday and will do so again today and Friday. All will then be brought to Appling’s house to be distributed to the hospitals.  “Right now, people feel helpless. We want to help, but we don’t really know how we can help. And so, the response that I’m getting is, ‘Thank you so much. I’ve been wanting to do something. I feel helpless and I haven’t known what to do’,” she says.  And the needs keep growing. She’s gotten a request to help a nearby food pantry next week and plans to collect snacks for first responders the following week.  Appling has since created a Facebook page to keep her neighbors informed.  “Any neighborhood can set up a Compassion Station—all throughout Atlanta. I mean we could be doing this everywhere,” she says.
  • Georgia National Guard troops spent part of Tuesday at a nursing home in Ellijay making sure it remains free of coronavirus. It’s part of a statewide effort ordered by Gov. Brian Kemp to send troops to nursing homes and assisted living facilities where residents are at high risk of suffering serious effects of COVID-19.
  • While Gov. Brian Kemp has faced a lot of criticism for keeping the state’s parks, lakes and beaches open during his statewide shelter-in-place order, those out enjoying them over the weekend are glad he did. Vogel State Park in Union County had just a fraction of the usual number of visitors for a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon in April.  Michael Caldwell of Atlanta was tired of being cooped up and was glad to be outdoors.  “You’re not overrun with people. Everybody’s far enough apart. And it’s something from a mental standpoint -- it gives you the ability to come out and enjoy and take in some serenity, but to also get out and get some exercise,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.  Brittany Henger, also from Atlanta, brought her two dogs.  “I think it’s an adequate amount (of people). People are wanting to get out of the house but are respecting the stay-at-home order,” she says.  Kemp refused to close Georgia’s parks, lakes and beaches as a part of his order to allow people to get outdoors to fish, boat and hike. State park campsites were also open but playgrounds were closed.  Local authorities on Tybee Island have been very vocal of their dislike for his decision and the mayor has threatened to file suit.  Still, images posted on Kemp’s Facebook page and his Twitter account over the weekend, show few people on the beaches with a state trooper monitoring the beach.  Rangers with the Department of Natural Resources have also been out on lakes and at parks to make sure social distancing rules are being followed.  One ranger at Vogel told Parrish he never had to break up any crowds and that people were following the guidelines posted on signs throughout the park.  At Amicalola Falls State Park, people spent the day hiking trails, climbing steps at the waterfall, and fishing. But far fewer than normal. Many empty parking spaces could be found.  The Massey family from Alpharetta was happy to spend the day hiking around Vogel although they found trails that run through the Chattahoochee National Forest closed by the U.S. Forest Service due to the nationwide shutdown. They hiked around the lake instead.  “The thing I like about this is we get to get out and talk and hike with the kids. I’m really glad that the governor has decided to keep the parks open. I think that it’s a good thing,” says John Massey.
  • A metro Atlanta emergency room doctor is doing what he can to keep himself and those he works with safe from COVID 19.  Dr. Mehrdod Ehteshami has already had to treat patients with the virus and is worried the limited supply of personal protection equipment will soon run out. So, he’s taken a MacGyver approach to keeping his N95 mask functional as long as possible.  “I actually went to a home improvement store and bought some air filters that apparently are able to block against viruses down to .3 microns, which is about what I need for the COVID 19,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.  Ehteshami then cuts the filter in the shape of the cartridge inside the mask and replaces it.  He says it’s what he will be using in the event the masks at the hospital where he works runs out.  “We still have, at my hospital, N95s but we are definitely dwindling,” says Ehteshami.  He has a group of friends who are also making fabric masks with pockets where the filter can be placed with the goal of having enough for his staff too.  And Ehteshami is not stopping there when it comes to shortages of other PPE.  “I can reuse my goggles by just cleaning them with the 60 percent alcohol wipes that we have left,” he says, adding, “The PPE with the gowns and gloves and shoe covers are more of a problem. We’re just doing the best we can. We’re not out yet… but I’m trying to think about how to fix that problem as well.”
  • 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

  • There are new rules in place for the holiday weekend if you plan to rent an Airbnb. The company says guests under 25 years old with fewer than three positive reviews will not be able to book an entire home close to where they live Airbnb didn’t reveal how it defines what is “close.” Airbnb said it wants to weed out any potential problems, specifically unauthorized house parties and feels this is the best way to do so. The company says it’s a nationwide policy, but it is most relevant for a handful of cities. The company says its technologies would block that guest from booking. “No one policy is going to stop all unauthorized parties. We’re also conscious that just because you’re 25 or older doesn’t mean that every single person in that group is booking for the right reasons too,” spokesperson Ben Breit told WSB-TV. Guests under 25 with at least three positive Airbnb reviews and no negative reviews won’t be subject to the restrictions. Airbnb began stepping up efforts to ban “party houses” last November after five people were shot and killed during an unauthorized party at an Airbnb rental in Orinda, California. At the time, Airbnb set up a rapid response team to deal with complaints from neighbors and started screening “high risk” bookings, such as reservations at a large home for one night. In a message to hosts, the company said reducing unauthorized parties is even more of a priority right now as states try to avoid coronavirus outbreaks. “With public health mandates in place throughout the country, we’re taking actions to support safe and responsible travel in the United States,” the company said. The Associated Press contributed to this story.
  • Jillian Wuestenberg, 32, and Eric Wuestenberg, 42, were charged Thursday with felonious assault after pulling a gun out on a Black mother and her children when a confrontation escalated outside a Chipotle in Michigan. Each of them had a loaded firearm and concealed pistol licenses. Deputies seized the two handguns, Sheriff Mike Bouchard said. On Thursday, the couple was arraigned and were given a $50,000 personal bond.  “As part of the bond conditions, they must turn over all firearms, not engage in any assaultive behavior, and may not leave the state,” sheriff’s officials told The Detroit News. The Detroit News first reported on the three-minute video posted online that shows part of the interaction. Takelia Hill, who is Black, told the newspaper that it happened after the white woman bumped into Hill’s teenage daughter as they were entering the fast food restaurant. The video footage [WARNING: Contains graphic language] starts after that, in the parking lot. A woman since identified as Jillian Wuestenberg is heard arguing with Hill and her daughters. Wuestenberg climbs into the vehicle, rolls down the window and says, “White people aren’t racist,” and, “I care about you,” before the vehicle she was in starts to back away. Her husband, who had led his wife to the vehicle, turns to the camera and asks, “Who ... do you think you guys are?,” using an expletive. Then, as someone is standing behind the vehicle, Jillian Wuestenberg jumps out and points a handgun in the direction of a person who’s recording. She screams at people to get away from her and her vehicle. A woman shouts, “She’s got a gun on me!” and urges someone in the parking lot to call the police. Wuestenberg then lowers the gun, climbs into the passenger seat and the vehicle drives off. Cooper, the prosecutor, told The Associated Press that her office viewed the available video and looked at the facts before filing charges. “It is an unfortunate set of circumstances that tempers run high over, basically, not much of an incident,” she said of the initial alleged spark that caused the confrontation. Bouchard said people are “picking sides” and that threatening calls were made to the sheriff’s office dispatch center after the videos were posted online. “We don’t see sides. We see facts,” he said. “There’s a lot of tension in our society, a lot of tension among folks and people with each other. I would just say this, we are asking and expect our police — and rightfully so — to deescalate every situation they possibly can, and we should be doing that. But I would say that needs to happen with us individually in our own lives and situations, that we interact with each other and deescalate those moments.” The Associated Press contributed to this story.
  • The United States Geological Survey reported that a 4.9 magnitude earthquake struck this morning near Puerto Rico around 9:55 a.m. EDT. The quake was felt across the U.S. territory and is the latest in a series of tremors that began in late December and have damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes. Ángel Vázquez, who oversees the emergency management agency in Ponce, said a house collapsed in the town of Lajas. The house was empty and slated for demolition, according to Kiara Hernández, spokeswoman for Puerto Rico’s Department of Public Security. Víctor Huérfano, director of Puerto Rico’s Seismic Network, told The Associated Press that the tremor is an aftershock related to the 6.4-magnitude quake that struck in early January, killing at least one person and causing millions of dollars in damage. The Associated Press contributed to this story.
  • With The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race postponed this year, the Atlanta Police Department warned people against running or walking the course on the Fourth of July. APD noted in a tweet Friday that the course will not be closed to car traffic on Independence Day. With hashtags including #MyPersonalPeachtree and #APDCares, the police department said in the tweet that people should avoid running or walking the course on Saturday for safety reasons. >>Read MORE on AJC.com. [Summary]
  • The Washington Redskins issued a statement that they will “undergo a thorough review of the team’s name.” “This process allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organization, sponsors, the National Football League and the local community it is proud to represent on and off the field,” Majority owner Daniel Snyder said in the the statement. Snyder had previously shown no indication he would change the name since buying the team in 1999, but was quoted in the release. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that he supports “this step.” The title sponsor of the Washington Redskins’ stadium, FedEx asked the NFL team to change its name in a statement Thursday. The company paid the team $205 million in 1999 for the naming rights to FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. Amid the national debate over race, pressure has been mounting on the organization to abandon the name called a “dictionary-defined racial slur” by experts and advocates. Investors this week wrote to FedEx, PepsiCo and other sponsors asking them to request a change. FedEx is believed to be the first to take action. Nike appeared to remove all Redskins gear from its online store Thursday evening according to The Associated Press. The other 31 NFL teams were listed and a search for “Redskins” came up with no results. The team last week removed the name of racist founder George Preston Marshall from its Ring of Fame at FedEx Field, and a monument to him was removed from the site of the old RFK Stadium. Washington, D.C., mayor Muriel Bowser also said the name was an “obstacle” to the team returning to the District. The team’s lease at FedEx Field expires in 2027, and it is still talking to Washington, Virginia and Maryland about building a new stadium. The Associated Press contributed to this story.
  • Two people are dead after a shooting Friday morning near North Carolina A&T State University. The shooting happened just before 6:30 a.m. near North Dudley and and Salem streets in Greensboro. The victims, 34-year-old Rodney Letroy Stout and 34-year-old Bakeea Abdulla Douglas both died of their injuries, according WGHP. Police said they are now investigating the case as a homicide. The university sent out an Aggie Alert at 7:15 a.m., encouraging students and staff to “stay behind closed and locked doors until further notice.” University officials said the shooting involves a “male suspect wearing a white t-shirt with black pants and a black mask traveling in an unknown direction.” No arrests have been made.