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Remembering Wynn Handman; Coronavirus Pandemic Update from Around the World; Georgia One Month after Reopening; Answers to Coronavirus Questions. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired May 26, 2020 - 08:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus is expected to reach 100,000 Americans this week. "The New York Times" marked this moment over the weekend dedicating its front page to those lost. One of them, Wynn Handman. He was a revered acting teacher and co-founder of the American Place Theater here in New York City. He helped launch the careers of actors like Dustin Hoffman, Faye Dunaway, John Leguizamo, Robert de Niro. Mr. Handman died last month at the age of 97.

And joining me now is Wynn's daughter Liza.

Liza, thank you very much for being with us. We are very sorry for your loss. And when we say he was revered and dedicated, let's just be clear, tell people how long he was teaching. He was teaching acting until when exactly?

LIZA HANDMAN, FATHER DIED OF COMPLICATIONS FROM CORONAVIRUS: His last class was March 9th, when he had to, you know, end his classes because of the coronavirus pandemic. But he had been teaching for 60 years, the same schedule, four nights a week, for four hours each class, and taught until he was 97. He -- it was quite amazing. An amazing career.

BERMAN: You can say -- see it in these pictures, the life and the energy that he had.

Now, he got sick in April. And it was all fairly quick, correct?

HANDMAN: Yes. He started to get sick on, I think, April 7th. And he died on April 11th. I guess, thankfully, it was rather quick. He didn't suffer for too long. And he wanted to stay at home. We had made a plan with his doctor, in the event that he contracted coronavirus, which we didn't even think was a possibility at the time as we were taking extreme precautions. But somehow it happened. And so we had a plan. And my father was part of the plan to not go to the hospital because of the triage situation, especially at the height of the virus, which is when he contracted it.

BERMAN: Now, we've been putting pictures up on the screen of your father with everyone in the theater community and beyond there. HANDMAN: Yes.

BERMAN: As I said, he was a revered teacher and institution, but you never really saw him teach, why?

HANDMAN: No, he kept home and work very separate. He had -- he was very much a family man in that he loved the three women in his life, my mom, Bobbie, and my sister, Laura. And he loved us unconditionally. But he kept church and state pretty separate.

I never witnessed a class. He didn't allow me in there. He thought I was a distraction. So, you know, I knew everybody thought he was amazing and revered him and he changed so many people's lives, but at home he was dad and a quirky dad at that, but dad.

BERMAN: A quirky dad at that. Explain what you mean by that. I heard, among other things that, you know, you did theater when you were growing up, but he never really gave you any coaching.

HANDMAN: No, my -- my sister and I took care of not being in the theater by being very untalented in the theater. And I think my father was happy about that. The times that he did witness either one of us acting, he would visibly cringe. And that was a clear sign that it was probably not a good career to pursue.

BERMAN: It doesn't sound like he was the type of person who pulled many punches.

HANDMAN: No, not at all, especially when it came to acting. There was nothing that made him more upset than bad acting. And clearly my sister and I were bad actors.

BERMAN: But -- so -- so -- but along those lines, though, you did have a special relationship with him. It wasn't as if -- he may have been critical as an acting coach, but as a father, what was he like?

HANDMAN: As a father, we -- we could do no wrong, which growing up in midtown Manhattan on 55th Street and 7th Avenue in the '60s and '70s, as I did, it was a little rough around the edges. And my mom had a dream that when she got married, she wanted to live in midtown Manhattan. And he fulfilled that dream for her.

But it wasn't exactly the dream that you would be raised. But my parents were kind of oblivious to that and raised us, you know, in our own little bubble. And, you know, it was -- it was a wonderful childhood.

BERMAN: When you -- often, you know, doctors who deliver babies, they look around at the thousands or -- of babies they delivered by the time they retire. Do you ever look at that with your father and think about all the careers, all the lives that he touched over 60 years of teaching?

[08:35:00] HANDMAN: I do. It's become more and more aware of it now that he's passed because there is a Wynn Handman fan club on FaceBook and just the amount of outpouring of people who say how much he influenced them and how he changed their lives, I'm seeing that more and more. But because he -- he did keep church and state so separate, I wasn't as aware of it growing up and we weren't -- I really never saw any of his productions until I was much older because he didn't want me to see the bad language and the -- the sex and racism -- the issues that he was dealing with in his theater that were disturbing and provocative and he kept that very separate.

BERMAN: Well, somehow all the more poignant and special that you knew him primarily as dad.

Liza Handman, we are sorry for his loss. What a life, though.


BERMAN: What an impact. And thank you so much for sharing your memories.

HANDMAN: And thank you for celebrating him. Thank you. And thanks for having me on.

BERMAN: Be well.

HANDMAN: You too.

BERMAN: Again, Wynn Handman was 97.

We'll be right back.



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hoping to cool some of the fury aimed at his top aide who drove across country while the rest of the U.K. was on lockdown. CNN has reporters all around the world to bring you the latest developments.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: I'm Nic Robertson in London, where the British prime minister is hoping he's been able to put behind him criticism of his chief adviser and focus on ending the lockdown, reopening schools and getting stores back up and running. The early indications are that he may have taken some of the heat out of the criticism from within his own party.

But, that said, some of the main conservative supporting newspapers here have dedicated plenty of column inches to criticizing the prime minister and his adviser.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Paula Hancocks in Seoul. South Korea is going to introduce a QR code-based customer log from

next month's. This will be for visitors, to nightclubs, to karaoke bars, to restaurants, the sort of facilities that the government believes to be high risk. And it follows the outbreak in Seoul's nightclub district where when people went into the clubs they had to give information, but some of them gave false details, which made contact tracing once there was an outbreak very difficult.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Fred Pleitgen in Copenhagen, where the Danish government is now saying anyone who wants a corona test can get a corona test. All people need to do is sign up and get an appointment on an app and then they can come to a testing facility like that one and get tested for whether or not they have the virus.

Now, the reason for that is that the Danish government wants to find out if there's any hidden pockets of Covid-19 here in this country. Denmark has been extremely successful in dealing with the outbreak and has a very, very low death toll.


Italy has a new plan for people who are out in public and not obeying social distancing regulations. The Italian Civil Protection Authority, along with regional governments, is organizing 60,000 volunteers, they're calling them civil assistants, who will patrol streets, beaches and parks, reminding people to wear face masks and to maintain social distance. These volunteers will be over 18. They will wear vests, identifying themselves, but they will not be able to issue fines or tickets.


BERMAN: I've got to say, fascinating, charting the reopening around the world and here in the United States.

Georgia was among the first states in the United States to begin reopening businesses. And in the span of a month, where have cases gone?

CNN's Nick Valencia live in Atlanta with an update.



It was a little over a month ago that Governor Brian Kemp announced a broad reopening and he surprised many and concerned many as well. We spoke to senior CDC officials who warned that it could possibly lead to a second, maybe even third wave. The whole time, though, the governor said that even though the virus was spreading, that Georgia was in a position to manage it.

We wanted to put that theory to the test. Here's a closer look at the numbers and how Georgia has fared in the months since it reopened.


VALENCIA (voice over): Looking at scenes like this, you may think Georgia never closed. CNN took a closer look at the data. What we found is that at least so far the numbers haven't changed much in the months since George's governor eased restrictions in a big way, the rate of new cases hasn't declined, but is hasn't skyrocketed either, despite some dire predictions.

Looking at data from Johns Hopkins University, between April 24th and May 24th, the number of new confirmed cases by day in Georgia does show slightly higher numbers over the past five days or so. But zooming out, though it goes up and down, overall data shows the rate of new daily cases in Georgia has been mostly flat, from April 24th, the day of the first reopening, to May 24th, averaging in the 600 to 700 range, the rate of new deaths per day also steady.

GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): I'm proud of what we accomplished over the last several weeks, but we cannot rest on our laurels. We need to further expand access to testing and we need to encourage Georgians to make it a priority.

VALENCIA: In fact, testing is the one thing going way up in Georgia. Georgia's rate of new tests added per day has basically quadrupled in that one month period, from about 5,000 a day to about 20,000. So more testing to find new cases, plus a flat rate of new cases, seems like good news. And the rate of positive test results remains about 5 percent. It was in the range of 15 percent to 20 percent a month ago, also good news.

In Atlanta, the city's most densely populated city, it seemed this some were willing to take the risk, data or not. Night clubs were packed. Restaurants were too. In an apparent reference to Atlanta's mayor, the host of this massive Atlanta pool party seemingly admitting to the risk, writing on Instagram, I'm sorry, Miss Bottoms.


VALENCIA (on camera): What's your assessment so far of how the state's doing?

DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EMORY UNIVERSITY: From my perspective, the state is doing OK.

VALENCIA (voice over): Emory University Global Health and Epidemiology Professor Carlos Del Rio says the impact of the governor's shelter in place order clearly decreased the number of infects and deaths.

DEL RIO: Having a healthy economy is about providing people jobs. It's about providing people opportunity. It's about health. So unemployment is -- it causes disease. Unemployment causes poverty. So we have to find a balance. But we need to do it carefully. We need to be careful not to be irresponsible.


VALENCIA: Dr. Del Rio said it was unsettling to see the large crowds we saw over Memorial Day weekend. But the real test, John, will come in a couple of weeks to see if this approach of social easing will lead it a faster rate of the virus spreading here in Georgia.


BERMAN: No, it's been pretty flat for a long time, not going up or down really, Nick.

VALENCIA: That's right.

BERMAN: It's been interesting to watch.

Nick Valencia doing terrific reporting for us in Georgia.

Thanks so much.

VALENCIA: Thank you.

BERMAN: So, face shield versus face mask. What's the difference? Dr. Sanjay Gupta back to answer your questions, next.



CAMEROTA: OK, you have more questions about coronavirus and Dr. Sanjay Gupta is back to answer them.

Sanjay, great to see you again.

This comes from Kara in Dallas, Texas. Are face shields alone as effective as wearing a face mask? Now that the weather is getting warmer, would it be more comfortable to wear a face shield?

What is the difference?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so I think you can put this on your list of possible gear here. I think we have a picture, if we can show the picture of the face shield. It's a shield that goes over the face. Typically in hospitals it's worn in conjunction with the mask. But you see it there. If it goes below the chin, wraps around to the sides -- to the -- just in front of the ears. There's been a fair amount of data around this now showing it can be quite helpful, both in terms of protecting you from getting viral particles into your nose and mouth, but also as we've talked about, more importantly, protecting others from you as well. More protective, frankly, than I would have thought. But you now have some pretty good data around this.

You can also see your facial expressions. It's easier to clean, re- useable. Companies like Apple and Nike and other companies are now making these face shields, so they should be more widely available.

I don't know, Alisyn, people have not been really comfortable wearing masks, as you know. I don't know if they're going to be comfortable wearing face shields. This is all new to most of us, at least in public. but I think this is a viable option.

BERMAN: Yes, something to consider, particularly in high risk areas, Sanjay.

Here's a question from Naomi. Are there any differences or variations of the coronavirus for those who are asymptomatic? Is it the exact same virus?

GUPTA: It's the same virus. It's an interesting question, though, that Naomi is raising. Why do some people get so sick and others don't? And I think it's a good time to remind people, as tough as this has been over the last few months, the vast majority of people who come in contact with this virus will not get that sick. Eighty percent or so will have minimal or no symptoms. It's really a question of identifying the rest who will become more ill, even require hospitalization.

It appears to be more a difference with the individuals more than the virus. We know elderly people are more predisposed, people with pre- existing conditions. But we can even take it a step further now. There's this particular receptor known as ACE2 receptor, and people who seem to have different types of ACE2 receptors, more of them tend to get sicker. They tend to be more common in men, for example.

So we're still learning a lot as we go along. But the good news, I guess, to Naomi's point, is the virus itself, it makes little minor mutations, but not significant.

CAMEROTA: OK, here's an interesting question. This is from David Powers in Spokane. He says, can smoke from a smoker transport Covid-19 droplets? The smell can be smelled a long way away.

Why not the droplets?

GUPTA: Yes, so, you know, smoke from smoking cigarettes or from a smoker is a combustible phenomenon. So you're actually burning something and then that's what's actually moving through the air and can drift quite a distance.

With this, the viral particles don't hang out in the smoke. The viral particles hang out in respiratory droplets. And people often ask, well, where does this six feet come from? I mean it is a bit of an arbitrary number. But just normal speech typically you can move respiratory droplets about six feet. If you cough, you're moving those respiratory droplets 18, 19 feet. And if you sneeze, 26 feet, which is why people who are symptomatic should not be going out, period.

But it's also, you know, the case for the mask. You wear the mask to try and decrease how much of the viral load you're putting into the atmosphere.

CAMEROTA: OK, Sanjay, thank you very much for all the information, as always.

OK, it's time for "The Good Stuff." OK, that is 13-year-old Boy Scout Alex Saldana (ph) playing "Taps" outside of a Paramus, New Jersey, veterans home. That's where more than 100 vets have died from coronavirus. The teenager took part in a Memorial Day flag planting ceremony in which a flag was placed on the front lawn for each of the veterans who were lost to Covid-19. Memorial Day was a special occasion, of course, but Alex has been playing "Taps" in front of this facility paying tribute to the veterans every night since the beginning of April.


ALEX SALDANA: Nowadays, many kids might not think of this, and they need to realize what these men have done for us and how they gave the ultimate sacrifice.


BERMAN: Good for him. Look, it's a wonderful tradition. A very solemn and meaningful tradition to play "Taps" on Memorial Day. I have a picture from 1986, I think we can put up on the screen --


BERMAN: Of a young trumpet player with terrific hair.


CAMEROTA: The same hair that you have now!

BERMAN: But -- that's me in 1986. I guess I was 14 there. Alex Saldana was 13. But, yes, we used to play "Taps" all over the cemeteries in the town I grew up in a Memorial Day parade. There's "Taps" and then you play the echo, and it's a beautiful remembrance to those who have sacrificed for the country.

CAMEROTA: It is. And it gives you goosebumps, obviously. But, John, do you still play trumpet?

BERMAN: I don't. My trumpet, though -- that trumpet you see in the screen is now played by my son. With a lot of duct tape and glue holding it together, but, yes.

CAMEROTA: Wow, John, thank you for sharing that. And I'm sure your son really appreciates sharing your old trumpet.


CAMEROTA: That must be great for him.

Thank you very much.

All right, CNN's coverage continues right after this.