Gwinnett County Public Schools has delayed the start of the school year by a week, and two suspects in the murder case of former deputy Felix Cosme have been linked to 15 armed robberies across metro Atlanta.
These are the top stories from the past week.
Gwinnett planning to delay start of 2020-2021 school year by one week, in-person graduations canceled
Gwinnett County Public Schools will delay the start of the new school year, and is canceling in-person graduations planned for next week for the Class of 2020, because of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic, Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks told the school board Tuesday night.
Wilbanks announced the delay at a called meeting of the school board, saying the one-week delay will give district officials extra time to prepare for students to return. The school board unanimously approved the calendar Tuesday night.
“We will be looking at a delayed start from the previous Aug. 5 start date,” Wilbanks said. “We are looking at a start date of Aug. 12. This will give the district additional time to review and adjust this return to school plan so it best meets the needs of students and reflects the most update guidance from public health officials.”
Families will have the choice of having their students return to school facilities for in-person instruction, or participating in digital learning when the school year begins. Students who return for in-person instruction, however, will be required to wear face masks, Wilbanks said.
- By Curt Yeomans firstname.lastname@example.org
District employees will also be required to wear face masks or coverings under a separate measure approved by the school board Tuesday. Social distancing will also be encouraged.
“We’re ordering masks for teachers and staff and we’ll ask students to provide their masks,” Associate Superintendent for School Improvement and Operations Steve Flynt said. “When they’re not able to, or get sick or don’t have one or something may happen to theirs, we’ll have additional ones to provide them ...
“But we’re going to be asking students (to wear something) similar to what you’d be wearing on a daily basis.”
As part of the delay, teachers will get an extra five days of pre-planning, according to Wilbanks. That additional pre-planning will give teachers a total of 10 days to prepare before the beginning of the school year.
“Given all of the things that has happened and has to be done, 10 days will be ample, but certainly not too long, time because there’s a lot of things teachers have to do,” Wilbanks said.
The graduations that had been scheduled to begin July 13 for the class of 2020 are being canceled because of the recent increase in new COVID-19 cases reported in Gwinnett County.
The school system had faced calls to delay the school year even later than what Wilbanks announced. School board member Everton Blair had urged a delay until after Labor Day in a letter issued Monday.
“As COVID-19 cases continue to surge across Gwinnett county, the state and the nation, I do not think we should reopen schools for in-person instruction,” Blair, who did vote for the Aug. 12 start date and face mask requirement, wrote in his letter.
State legislators from Gwinnett’s legislative delegation, led by state Rep. Jasmine Clark, D-Lilburn, also called for a delay.
“Delaying the start of the school year until after Labor Day, along with the implementation of local or statewide guidelines to reduce spread, will allow for schools to reopen when it is safer,” the legislators wrote.
Gwinnett's COVID-19 case total jumped nearly 22% in eight days
Gwinnett County has now had a total of more than 11,000 cases of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus.
Data from the Georgia Department of Public Health showed the county crossed the 11,000 cases threshold on Saturday, when state officials reported a total of 11,074 COVID-19 cases. That’s an increase of nearly 2,000 new cases — 1,989 new cases to be exact — over an eight-day period between July 3 and Saturday.
Percentage-wise, that’s a jump of nearly 21.9% in Gwinnett’s total cases in just over a week.
“It’s really the same old story: the more testing we do, we continue to see more cases because we know we have community-wide transmission in the county,” Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale Health Departments spokesman Chad Wasdin said.
In addition to crossing the 11,000 cases benchmark, Gwinnett has had 182 reports of COVID-19-related deaths and 1,315 hospitalizations. The county leads the state in total cases and has had an incidence rate of 1,140.3 cases for every 100,000 residents.
Wasdin said the average age of people in Gwinnett who have tested positive for COVID-19 is 38.
Earlier this week, Gwinnett saw 1,330 new cases reported in six days between July 3 and Thursday. On Friday, Wasdin said delays in getting results from tests from labs, who may have gotten backed up while processing the tests, could also result a large increase in new reports showing up at one time.
Although the results are entered into the state’s reporting system so they are counted under the date the test was administered, it can be a bit confusing because a comparison of case totals alone can make it seem like they are new tests.
“Now, it’s very possible that there were actually 1,300 cases whenever you saw that increase (as of Thursday), but if you see large increases, sometimes that’s really dependent upon when private providers get an opportunity to report their positive cases as well,” Wasdin said.
“So, sometimes even though those positive cases will be put into respective dates on when that person actually tested positive, the way the current system works, it shows when they’re actually reported into the system so that’s something to keep in mind when looking at those numbers also.”
The data also does not break down how many of those new cases at the county level were discovered through swab tests, which shows people who had the disease when they were tested, and how many were discovered through an antibody test, which shows a person previously had the disease but recovered before they were tested.
Wasdin also said there are some encouraging signs elsewhere in the data. The percentage of people hospitalized in Gwinnett who have tested positive for COVID-19 has decreased week over week. This past week, it was 12%. The week before that, it was 13%.
The percentage of people testing positive who also had underlying health conditions has also decreased.
“That is likely due to us testing a younger population who typically has as many underlying health conditions, so what we’re seeing is we’re testing a younger, healthier portion of the population who is less likely to probably have complications from the virus,” Wasdin said.
Although the increase seen in Gwinnett over the eight-day period between July 3 and Saturday appears high, the increase is not as high as the increase seen across all of Georgia over the same time period.
- By Beau Evans
Capitol Beat News Service
Statewide, there have been a total of 114,401 cases, 2,996 deaths, 13,205 hospitalizations and 2,610 ICU admissions.
Across Georgia, 23,908 new cases of COVID-19 were discovered through swab and antibody tests between July 3 and Saturday. That’s an increase of 26.4% in cases for the state.
In Fulton County, which has had the second highest case total in the state behind Gwinnett, there was an 37.5% increase in cases over that time period. That’s an increase of 2,827 new cases in Fulton county between July 3 and Saturday.
Although the Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale Health Departments had previously talked about expanding the available of Saturday testing dates to all of its testing sites this weekend, that is now expected to not happen until later this month.
Wasdin said the health district is working on lining up volunteers to be able to do Saturday testing at all health department-run testing sites in Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale counties.
Following Gwinnett among the top five counties in the state for COVID-19 cases, Fulton County has had a total of 10,354 cases and 324 deaths, followed by DeKalb County (8,144 cases, 181 deaths), Cobb County (6,940 cases, 253 deaths) and Hall County (3,774 cases, 63 deaths).
With new case numbers up, health officials continue to encourage compliance with public health guidelines — such as wearing face masks and practicing social distancing — that are designed to limit the spread of COVID-19.
“The focus on face masks is certainly important, but from our perspective, face masks are just a part of our message because, really and truly, a mask alone is not enough,” Wasdin said. “It still is important to continue practicing social distancing and all of the other social mitigation efforts, like washing your hands and certainly staying away from people who are sick and staying home if you’re sick.”
Ray Gunnin remembered for role in transformation of Gwinnett County
Gwinnett County was a different place when Ray Gunnin was elected to the county commission in the late 1960s, but many of the key parts of the county’s government emerged during his tenure in office.
Lawrenceville city attorney Lee Thompson, who was in high school in Gwinnett when Gunnin joined the commission in 1968, said the county had a three-person commission before then. During Gunnin’s tenure the county’s governing body expanded into the larger version of the commission that Gwinnettians know today.
Gunnin represented the Norcross area on the commission.
“He actually helped Gwinnett County transform from a more rural county that, at that point, had a three-man, full-time commission that ran everything in the county to a five-person commission that had more of a professional staff in place,” Thompson said.
Gunnin died on June 30 at the age of 92 in Colorado, where he lived with his daughter, Gail, and her husband. He is also survived by his son, Bill, and daughter-in-law, as well as a sister, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife of 54 years, Louise, who died in 2012.
Long before he got into politics, Gunnin went to work at Southern Bell Telephone Company, which later became AT&T, when he was 20 and worked there for 35 years. He served in the U.S. Army JAG Corps during the Korean War and attended Clemson University and the Georgia Institute of Technology.
A key part of his life that people who remembered him cite, however, is his role in the development of Gwinnett, helping move the county from a rural community toward the increasingly urbanized community that Gwinnettians know today.
“He was very much involved with the initiation of the advances that helped move Gwinnett toward being a modern day community,” said Gwinnett County commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash, who began her long association with county government in the 1970s.
Nash pointed to several areas of county government Gunnin helped develop or modernize. These include the establishment of a full-time paid fire department, the beginning of Gwinnett’s sewer system, a modernizing of the Gwinnett County Police Department, improvements to the county’s road network, creating a foundation for Gwinnett County’s parks system and a “major expansion” of the water system.
“All of us who love and work in Gwinnett today have multiple reasons for being grateful that Ray Gunnin loved Gwinnett enough to take the leadership role he did,” Nash said.
Thompson said he felt Gunnin was also instrumental in attracting the Western Electric Plant to his commission district by working on the fire department and water and sewer systems.
“(The Wester Electric Plant) was a huge supplier of jobs back in the early 1970s and led to some of the improvements that helped start the making of Gwinnett into more of a suburban county by putting in water and sewer and fire and recreation, and some of those improvements,” Thompson said.
In the early 70s, Gov. Jimmy Carter picked Gunning to serve on Georgia’s Board of Industry and Trade, the World Congress Center Board, the Community Development Board, the Intergovernmental Council Board and the Policy Planning Board.
Gunnin also served as chairman of the National Association of County Commissioners and president of the Association of County Commissioners of Georgia.
He and Harold Medlock established the Pinckneyville Community Association and the Pinckneyville Spring Festival as well.
But Gunnin was also involved in the county’s Democratic Party, which is more of how Thompson knew him.
After a decade on the county commission, Gunnin opted to leave county government to challenge U.S. Rep. Ed Jenkins for the 9th Congressional District seat in 1978.
“I was on Ed Jenkins’ campaign staff and ran his Gwinnett County office during the 1978 campaign when Ray ran against him in the Democratic primary and actually my college professor, I have a political science and history degree, and my political science professor ran Ray’s campaign, so that was kind of fun,” Thompson said.
Gunnin was unsuccessful in his bid to unseat Jenkins, who remained in Congress until 1992, but the former county commissioner continued to play a role in the Gwinnett County Democratic Party. In fact, he lead the party in much of the 1980s, which was a time of change for Gwinnett as Republicans gradually swept out Democrats from county offices.
After Republicans swept the local offices — including sheriff, tax commissioner, district attorney and some commission seats — in the 1984 election, Gunnin issues a warning that the Gwinnett County Democratic Party was down, but it was not out.
“(Democrats) are a party in exile, just waiting to come back,” Gunnin told the Home Weekly, the predecessor of the Daily Post, after the 1984 general election. “I think (the Republican domination) is temporary.”
That statement ultimately proved to foreshadow the 2018 election, where Democrats swept several local seats, defeating some incumbent Republicans and picking up previously Republican-held open seats in the process.
“It only took us about (about) 35 years,” Thompson said.
The 1980s was the beginning of more than three decades of Republican dominance in Gwinnett. While that could have led to the disappearance of the Gwinnett County Democratic Party, Thompson said the fact that it didn’t happen immediately after the 1984 or 1986 elections is due to Gunnin holding the party together.
Thompson pointed out that while Republicans took power in Gwinnett in the 1980s, Democrats remained in power in most statewide offices until the late 1990s and early 2000s.
“In the ’80s, as things were beginning to change, I think he kept the (Gwinnett) Democratic Party organized and continued to support Democratic candidates who were still in office — and also kept us hooked into the state party, which was still in power,” Thompson said.
Gunnin eventually moved to Gainesville, although he had recently moved to Colorado to live with his daughter and son-in-law.
It could be argued that Gunnin approached the various roles he held in Gwinnett with an eye focused on what needed to be done to prepare for the future, whether it was planning for Gwinnett’s growth or keeping the county’s Democratic Party together in the aftermath of defeat so it could someday experience a resurgence.
“He was a very intelligent person and did a lot of forward thinking as to what improvements the county needed as it grew,” Thompson said. “I think he knew a lot of growth was going to happen in the later 70s, early 80s ... and helped the county do a lot of planning for that.”
There will not be a public memorial service because of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic. Well-wishers are asked to send their recollections of Gunnin to email@example.com. A small family memorial service and a story-fest, where stories about him will be told, is expected to be held at a later date.
Buford City Schools to require students wear face masks on buses, 'strongly recommend' they wear them in school as well
Buford City Schools students whose families opt for in-school instruction this fall will have to wear face masks for at least part of their day because of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic, Superintendent Robert Downs announced Thursday.
The city school system will reconvene classes on Aug. 5, a week earlier than Gwinnett County and Hall County schools, with families having the option of in-school instruction or digital learning for the fall semester.
As for face masks — which Gwinnett County Public Schools plans to make mandatory — Downs said in a letter to parents that he understands a decision on whether to wear one is “very personal.” At the same time, the district would prefer students wear them in school while staff will be required to wear them at least in common areas, including halls and media centers, when social distancing is not possible.
The school system will only mandate the wearing of masks by students on school buses, however.
“Given the most recent guidance, we strongly recommend that BCS students wear cloth face coverings while at school,” Downs said. “Students will be required to wear cloth face coverings on BCS school buses. This protocol will be included as part of the school reopening guidelines.
“We encourage families to obtain reusable/washable face coverings for their student(s). However, a disposable mask will be provided for any student who boards the school bus without an appropriate face covering.”
Virtual town hall meetings with parents will be held Tuesday so district officials can answer questions about their plans for the beginning of the school year. A town hall for parents of kindergartners through fifth-graders will be held at 6 p.m., while a town hall for parents of sixth-graders through high school seniors will be held at 7 p.m.
Parents can fill out forms at bufordcityschool.org to submit questions for the town halls, with 9 a.m. Monday being the deadline to submit questions. The links to view the town halls is expected to be released Monday.
Meanwhile, as neighboring school systems have been pushing the start of their school years back to give them additional time to make preparations to handle the COVID-19 novel coronavirus to try and stop it from spreading, Downs said such a delay wasn’t needed for Buford schools.
“I am aware that Gwinnett County Public Schools and Hall County Schools have decided to push their school start date back to Aug. 12,” Downs said. “While I respect their decisions, their dynamics do not alter the fact that we will be ready to open as planned.
“As evidenced by our reopening guides for families and staff, we have prepared and will continue to do such, so we can welcome our students back to school for in-person and digital learning Aug. 5. If a directive from Governor Kemp or health agencies changes this projected start date, we will immediately notify our BCS families.”
School specific information will be sent to families as the school year approaches.
Families of students in the school system have until July 15 to tell the district whether they want their children to participate in digital learning, or in-school instruction.
The school system made information about the options available online Thursday so parents can decide which learning option they prefer. The information is available at bit.ly/3fglrsb.
“Our commitment to your family continues to be transparent communication and, to the greatest degree possible, personalization, and respect for your family’s circumstances,” Downs said. “We understand and acknowledge the decision to return to school is a highly personal one for each family, and we are here to help in whatever way possible.”
Buford City Schools officials previously warned parents and students that digital learning will be challenging because of how long it is expected to last: 90 days of instruction. They also said it will not be similar to the digital learning the district used this past spring because of the fact that some students will be learning digitally and others will be learning in person.
The school system said there will be a consistency in expectations for attendance, grading and accountability for all students regardless of whether they are in the classroom or participating via computer. The district also said options for electives, specials and connections classes may be limited for students who chose to stay home and participate in digital learning.
“The digital learning option will require a significant commitment from students and parents, as it will be a full semester commitment (90 instructional days),” Buford City Schools officials said in information sent out to parents earlier this month.
“In order for students to be successful with digital learning, parents must be willing to provide adequate support at home.”
Suspects in murder of former Gwinnett deputy Felix Cosme face 68 charges for armed robberies in metro Atlanta
The two suspects in the murder case of former deputy Felix Cosme have been linked to 15 armed robberies across metro Atlanta and are facing a combined 68 charges, according to Gwinnett County police.
In June, Tavares Norah, 25, and Prince Robertson, 27, were identified as the same suspects of an armed robbery at an Auto Zone in Dacula. On Thursday, police detailed how they were able to piece together numerous other robberies that occurred for several months and which led them to the suspects’ arrest.
Gwinnett police spokesperson Cpl. Collin Flynn said the robberies included the deadly armed robbery at the O’Reilly’s store on Hamilton Mill Road on Jan. 8, where former Gwinnett Sheriff’s Deputy Sgt. Felix Cosme was killed. He had been working at the store following his retirement from the sheriff’s office.
After Cosme’s death, investigators zeroed in on the vehicles the suspects used to flee from the scenes of the robberies. Police said Cpl. David Smith, who was assigned as the lead detective for the case, learned that the suspects fled the O’Reilly’s after Cosme’s death in a Volkswagen Jetta.
He worked with Robbery Detective Justin Cofield and discovered that the tactics and description of the suspects matched four previous robberies of auto parts stores in Gwinnett County. Police said Cofield had already been assigned as lead detective on those cases.
Smith and Cofield scoured local surveillance cameras and continued to gain more information on the Volkswagen Jetta until they were able to identify the exact vehicle.
Meanwhile, the suspects continued doing armed robberies of auto parts stores, police said, including two more in Gwinnett, one in Roswell, Henry County, Athens and Duluth.
- By Curt Yeomans firstname.lastname@example.org
After identifying the specific Volkswagen Jetta, investigators learned that Robertson was associated with the vehicle and had been stopped and arrested by Braselton police in December 2019 for a DUI. During the traffic stop, Robertson was driving a Toyota Camry, which police later found was also used in the robberies.
Norah was also in the vehicle during the traffic stop. According to body camera footage, police found masks and a gun, which detectives believe were later used in the robbery that led to Cosme’s death.
“Since these robbery suspects were committing their crimes in multiple jurisdictions around Atlanta, the FBI provided agents for assistance,” Flynn said. “The Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Department also provided round the clock assistance with surveillance.”
While conducting surveillance on the two suspects on June 1, Cofield and an FBI agent witnessed them commit another armed robbery at an Auto Zone in Dacula. But when police confronted the suspects, a car chase ensued.
Robertson and Norah ended up crashing off La Maison Drive in Dacula and fled from the scene, resulting in an overnight manhunt. Robertson was arrested near the neighborhood the next morning while walking down the street, and Norah surrendered that same day.
- By Chamian Cruz email@example.com
“After the arrest, detectives were able to locate crucial evidence linking the men to these robberies and the murder. That evidence also helped to link them to two other auto store robberies from 2017,” Flynn said.
“This investigation involved hundreds of hours of work. The Gwinnett County Police Department wants to thank the FBI, the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Department, Athens Police Department, Cobb County Police Department, Roswell Police Department and Duluth Police Department for the invaluable assistance that they provided in arresting this dangerous robbery crew.”
Police said the suspects stole a total of $17,391. Robertson and Norah are still being held without bond in the Gwinnett County jail.
COVID-19 numbers show alarming jumps in Georgia
f you haven’t been shocked by the COVID-19 numbers in Georgia, Friday’s figures may do it.
The state easily broke its record for daily cases reported, with 4,484 new infections, more than 1,000 higher than the previous mark. The hospitalization number took an ominous leap, with 331 new admissions for COVID-19 reported Friday across the state.
Many hospitals this week have already reported high numbers of virus patients.
Marietta-based Wellstar Health System, with 11 hospitals, said several locations “are at full capacity due to an influx of patients, and we are working to actively manage capacity across our system and still have a limited number of staffed ICU beds available within our hospitals at this time.’’
There are other alarming data on the pandemic.
Georgia is hitting only 25 percent of its testing target considered necessary to mitigate the spread of the virus, according to data published by the New York Times. That’s the seventh-lowest percentage in the nation, after other hard-hit states: Arizona, Mississippi, South Carolina, Alabama, Florida and Texas.
At the same time, the percentage of positive tests for COVID-19 has been increasing in Georgia, and is now at 14 percent, according to Covid Exit Strategy.
“Needless to say, the numbers are frightening,” said Dr. Harry Heiman, a health policy expert at Georgia State University.
The state’s critical care bed availability is shrinking, and now stands at just 17 percent, as more patients are being hospitalized.
With that in mind, Gov. Brian Kemp’s office said Friday that the temporary hospital at the Georgia World Congress Center, which opened in April and closed a month later, will be reactivated to relieve hospitals struggling to handle the COVID-19 load.
The facility in Atlanta will hold 200 COVID-19 patients from across the state and can expand to 400 patients if needed. The patients taken to the GWCC will be those with less severe cases, who do not require a ventilator.
The state also plans to strike a deal with a hospital system, believed to be Piedmont Healthcare, to add roughly 100 intensive care and surgical units to Georgia’s medical infrastructure, the AJC reported.
“Over the past two weeks, we have experienced an increase in cases and hospitalizations, and following a drop-off in specimens collected over the holiday weekend, we now expect a trend of higher case numbers as new results arrive,” the governor’s office said in a statement Friday. State officials also said they are “negotiating new solutions to increase its own capacity to process specimens.’’
Dr. Melanie Thompson, an Atlanta physician who collaborated on a recent letter to Gov. Brian Kemp urging him to require masks in public, said Friday’s daily toll “is the increase that health providers have been fearing, but expecting.’’
Kemp and the Department of Public Health, Thompson said, “made a political decision to open too soon, and have been unwilling to rise above politics to do things that have been proven to work: require masks, tighten social distancing requirements, allow local officials to manage their epidemics. Testing and contact tracing have increased but are way behind. It will get worse, including more deaths, but it’s not too late. We can still save lives but it is going to take courage.’’
A different kind of patient
WellStar said it would continue to monitor and actively manage staffing levels, capacity, and the supply chain across its system ‘‘to ensure we have adequate, continued access to beds, equipment, and personnel needed to care for patients.’’
Kemp’s office said current COVID-19 patients tend to be younger and with less acute cases than in the early stages of the pandemic. It said improved treatment – such as advances like remdesivir – has cut the average hospital stay for coronavirus patients from 14 days to seven (or fewer).
“Based on the governor’s most recent call with hospital executives earlier this week, there is strong consensus among health care facilities that they wish to continue elective procedures to promote Georgians’ health and well-being while avoiding more financial distress and potential furloughs.’’
But Georgia State’s Heiman said “strong policy action is needed now from our state political and public health leadership to protect our state from further health and economic harm. Our house is on fire and our state leadership appears to be waiting to see if the fire will go out on its own.’’
Meanwhile, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is sticking to her order making mask-wearing a requirement in the city. She said the order has met with wide approval from health care workers.
But Kemp’s office said such actions by mayors are “merely guidance — both non-binding and legally unenforceable. As clearly stated in the governor’s executive order, no local action can be more or less restrictive, and that rule applies statewide. Once again, if the mayor actually wants to flatten the curve in Atlanta, she should start enforcing state restrictions, which she has failed to do. We ask citizens and businesses alike to comply with the terms of the governor’s order, which was crafted in conjunction with state public health officials. These common-sense measures will help protect the lives and livelihoods of all Georgians.”
Also Friday, the mayor of Augusta issued an order requiring wearing a mask in public.
Lilburn high school students use virtual resources to reach communities in need of face masks
A rising senior at Parkview High School and her two friends have gotten creative with the virtual resources they have on hand during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to offer help.
When the coronavirus began to spread in the U.S., Joy Ren said she and her friends, Velda Wang and Pamela Esquivel, decided they didn’t want to sit back and complain about all the things they could no longer do. Instead, they wanted to do something of use.
“So I started making masks with my friends and we raised money from our community to buy supplies like fabric, thread, etc.,” Ren said about their “Sew to Save” project.
They began placing flyers in their neighborhoods’ mailboxes and spreading the word about the money they were raising to support their initiative via social media.
Although Ren’s family already owned a sewing machine before the pandemic, she didn’t know how to sew, so she found a tutorial on YouTube and has been improving her newfound craft ever since.
Four months later, Ren and her friends have sewn about 2,000 face masks and donated them to places all over the area, including Village Vets Animal Hospital, Emory Healthcare, Rainbow Village, the Parkview High School staff, the Centers for Disease Control and at the recent Black Lives Matter protests.
“I’ll probably keep doing this for a long time since school is starting in the fall and I feel there will be an increase in the demand for masks since they’re being required,” Ren said. “This is also a good opportunity to contact other schools who may need them and help spread this and make sure that every student and staff’s safety is prioritized.”
To continue to help in the community, Ren also started a “Canned Food for Masks” subproject, where people in the community donate canned goods and other supplies to the Lilburn Co-op for a free face mask. The project helps support people who may have lost their jobs or who are struggling financially because of the pandemic.
“I have known Joy and her family for a couple of years,” Nikhat Nazarali, Ren’s ACT tutor, said. “Her parents, Kening and Hong, have raised an intelligent, driven and conscientious daughter. Most importantly, the entire Ren family is of kind heart and generous spirit.”
Nazarali said you rarely see a community mobilize so quickly. Within days, Ren rallied dozens of families to participate in her and her friends’ projects.
“The smallest effort can make such a big impact in people’s lives,” Ren said. “I think it not only makes you feel good because you’re doing something to help others, but people don’t realize how something so little can make such a big impact.”
This summer, Ren also began diving into topics related to happiness and psychology since she recently started a club with her friend at school that focuses on random acts of kindness and spreading positivity around the community.
She said she wanted to get a better understanding of those topics, so she took a free online course offered by Yale University and realized how doing something good for others can change how people feel and their outlook on the world.
She’s now conducting a survey that looks at how COVID-19 has impacted high schoolers’ mental health in order to seek out coping strategies and treatment.
For more information or to get involved in all of Ren and her friend’s projects, visit www.we4kids.org.
Gwinnett police officer injured while trying to save man from fiery car crash on I-85
A Gwinnett County police officer was injured while trying to extricate a driver from a fiery crash on Interstate 85 Wednesday morning, but the 32-year-old driver from Ochlocknee died as a result of his injuries.
Within minutes of the 911 call that came at around 1:30 a.m., officers assigned to the West Precinct arrived at the scene of an injury crash on I-85 northbound in between Jimmy Carter Boulevard and Indian Trail Lilburn Road in unincorporated Norcross.
The 911 caller said a single vehicle was on fire. One Gwinnett County police officer approached a truck and attempted to extricate the unconscious driver. The officer sustained minor injured in the process, but was later discharged from a local hospital.
The driver of the truck, Kyle Persing, died as a result of his injuries.
According to police, Persing and another driver were traveling northbound on I-85 near the Center Way bridge.
Though the details of the crash are still under investigation, investigators believe that Persing, who was driving a white Ford F150 pickup, may have either lost control or changed lanes and struck the other driver in a white Nissan Rogue, causing both vehicles to veer into the center median wall.
The F150 overturned several times and eventually caught fire. The driver of the Nissan Rogue was taken to a local hospital with minor injuries.
Former Meadowcreek High School swim coach charged with sexual battery
A former Meadowcreek High School swim coach was arrested Tuesday and charged with two counts of sexual battery against children under 16.
Anthony Rainge, 61, was released from the Gwinnett County jail hours later that same day on an $11,200 bond.
Rainge, who was previously the head swim and dive coach at Meadowcreek, was under investigation after current and former students reported him and three other staff members to the police for inappropriate sexual behavior with students, Gwinnett County Public Schools spokesperson Bernard Watson confirmed.
In mid-June, more than 40 students, ranging from Class of 2013 to Class of 2020, took to social media to share their alleged experiences with Rainge.
"This is probably the hardest story to tell," a former student wrote. "For so long, I believed Coach Rainge was like my father. That's the way he presented himself. ... We had 75+ swimmers on the team, and every single person would defend him through hell and back."
But the student was among many others who said Rainge would sometimes drive her home after swim practice, make inappropriate comments about her appearance, recount sexual experiences with other women and more. She was 15 or 16 years old at the time.
Another alleged victim recounted different instances when she was 16 during which Rainge took her to his house, would make her sit on his lap, touched her and sucked on her fingers, and made her try on her swimsuit in front of him in his office. She graduated in 2017.
While still under investigation, Rainge retired from Meadowcreek on June 24. He was employed with Gwinnett County Public Schools since August 2009, Watson said.
He added that one of the other staff members accused of inappropriate contact and engaging in sexually explicit conversations with students resigned on June 23 and the other two were cleared of wrongdoing by the school district. The staff member who resigned had previously transferred to Parkview High School.
Meanwhile, Watson said school resource officers are also conducting their own investigation into the allegations that occurred on school property.
Reports were also filed with the district's Human Resources Division, the Georgia Division of Family and Children’s Services, as well as the Professional Standards Commission.
In a letter to parents and staff, Meadowcreek High School Principal Kevin Wood said Gwinnett County Public Schools is taking the recent and other similar allegations very seriously.
"As your principal," he said, "I am committed to the work we are doing to foster a safe and positive school environment and encourage our school community to come to me when you have concerns."
It is unclear when Rainge will make his first court appearance, as county officials announced on Tuesday that all of Gwinnett County State Court’s criminal proceedings have been canceled through July 17 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. All pending criminal matters will be rescheduled.
Lawrenceville woman dies in car crash while traveling through South Carolina on Fourth of July
A 72-year-old Lawrenceville woman was ejected from the passenger seat of a vehicle making its way back home through South Carolina on July 4 and died from her injuries.
Master Trooper Brandon Bolt, with the South Carolina Highway Patrol, said the incident took place at approximately 2:40 p.m. on Interstate 85 southbound, just 10 miles south of Anderson.
The woman, Young Lee, and the driver were traveling in a Cadillac Escalade when the the vehicle suddenly veered to the left side of the road and onto the median.
Bolt said the vehicle briefly made its way back onto the roadway and began to overturn several times. The vehicle then struck the cable barrier along the median and caught fire.
Lee, who was not wearing a seatbelt at the time, was ejected from the vehicle. The driver was airlifted to an area hospital with life-threatening injuries.
The incident remains under investigation by the South Carolina Highway Patrol, which was not able to provide an update on the driver's injuries.
- Construction to begin soon on luxury apartment community in downtown Duluth
- Louisiana ranks as the worst state for children during the Covid-19 pandemic, Save the Children says
- Senate confirms Gina Raimondo as Biden's commerce secretary
- Texas governor lifts mask mandate despite health officials' warnings
- 60 Years After Eisenhower's Warning, Distinct Signs of a 'Digital-Intelligence Complex'
- Pancake puffs make a sweet treat at any time of the day
- Gwinnett Solicitor General Brian Whiteside pledges to sue state if omnibus House election reform bill become law
- Gwinnett police looking for man accused of stealing more than $60,000 from car at The Forum in Peachtree Corners
- Standard time measure clears Georgia State Senate
- SPLC criticizes GCPS' minority student discipline practices after court overturns expulsion for off-campus incident
- Gwinnett police arrest 70-year-old suspect accused of killing man in parking lot off Riverside Parkway
- Georgia school teachers to be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine starting March 8
- Police: Johns Creek man had more than 20,000 images of suspected child pornography
- Georgians could be in line for income tax relief
- After a COVID-19-related delay, Gwinnett's first Black sheriff gets to hold swearing in ceremony
- PHOTOS: Gwinnett Animal Shelter Adoptable Pets of the Week — March 1
- WANTED IN GWINNETT: Week of Feb. 22
- Weekly Gwinnett County restaurant health inspections for Feb. 28
- MUGS: 10 felony bookings in Gwinnett County Jail
- Species that went extinct in 2020
- PHOTOS: Gwinnett Animal Shelter Adoptable Pets of the Week — Feb. 22
- IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Top Gwinnett County stories from Feb.22-28
- ON THE MARKET: This view (and much more) for $1.89 million in Suwanee
- Top 10 luxury vehicles for America’s wealthiest
- Weekly Gwinnett County restaurant health inspections for Feb. 21
Find a local business
President Biden has been in office for over a month now. How do you think he has been handling his job so far? This is not a scientific poll — results reflect only the opinions of those voting.