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COVID-19 Kills Almost 8,500 In The U.S.; New York Convention Center Becomes Makeshift Hospital; African Nations Afraid To Fight Pandemic?; Spain Overtakes Italy In Reported Virus Cases; U.K. Government Scrambles To Offer Mass Public Testing; Louisiana Bracing For Onslaught Of Virus Cases; Recovered Patient Donates Plasma To Help Others; Christians Observing Palm Sunday Under Lockdown; Millions Now Homeschooling; Britain's Virtual Grand National. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired April 5, 2020 - 03:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everyone, and welcome to Studio 7 here at CNN Center in Atlanta. I am Michael Holmes.

The U.S. struggling to get ahead of the coronavirus epidemic still ripping through the country. Johns Hopkins reporting more than 8,500 people have died and President Trump is saying it's about to get much worse.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This will be probably the toughest week between this week and next week. There will be a lot of death, unfortunately but a lot less death and then if this wasn't do but there will be death.


HOLMES: Well, the White House Coronavirus Task Force says these next two weeks are crucial to flatten that curve. Saying social distancing is, quote, "the most important tool."

Now despite that, the president still refusing to issue a national stay-at-home order and eight states still don't have one. Meanwhile, state leaders are warning of dire medical supply shortages, the governor of Illinois saying they don't even have enough tests to see how many people have the virus.

He says the lack of a federal plan is creating what he called the Wild West out here. Let's dig in to what the White House Coronavirus Task Force is doing. Jeremy Diamond with this report from Washington.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, as the United States marked a record on Saturday for the single most coronavirus deaths reported in a single day, President Trump warned of the grim reality, that things are about to get a lot worse.

The president warning that this will be a horrendous time for the country, saying that there is going to be a lot of deaths in the coming weeks, specifically this next week to come.

But the president, even as he said that, in the next breath, we heard him also talking about the extent to which he would like to see the country begin to reopen. This has been a singular focus for the president, particularly as he looks at the economy in a re-election year.

So the president once again sending some mixed messaging. I did get a chance to ask the president on Saturday, though, about this issue of ventilator shortages. Ventilator manufacturers have been ramping up production, sometimes in cooperation with auto manufacturers.

But even as they do that there is still likely to be a shortage of ventilators. That at least according to the models. So I asked the president about that.


DIAMOND: Ventilator manufacturers are doubling, tripling, quadrupling production in some cases.

TRUMP: That's true.

DIAMOND: Yet medical experts and some of these manufacturers are predicting there will still be shortages of tens of thousands of ventilators.

Is it time for you to level with the American public that there likely will be shortages of ventilators in some cases?

TRUMP: Could be. I mean, you could have shortages. It could also be that you have some that way overestimated the number of ventilators they need. We think that we have a good amount ready to move.

I mean literally like an army. They are ready to move to any hotspot. But some of the ones that you are talking about, always a nasty question from CNN, but some of the ones --


TRUMP: -- because I think that, frankly, you know -- you know what?

You have asked that question 10 times over the course of about a month. Look, we are mobilized and ready to go. We have a lot of ventilators ready to go. And if we had given them all out, we wouldn't. And you would be overstocked in many areas.


DIAMOND: You see the president conceding indeed there could be a shortage of ventilators in parts of the country. That as the Coronavirus Task Force coordinator Dr. Debbie Birx said the apex of this coronavirus pandemic in several hotspots in the United States is expected to hit in six to seven days.

As you see ventilator manufacturers ramping up production, that is a question of weeks and months, not a matter of days. But the president also faced questions on another front and that is why he is not urging governors, these eight Republican governors in the United States, who so far have refused to issue stay-at-home orders.

The president saying it's not his role to direct governors but, at the same time, suggesting he might change his tune if indeed there is a significant outbreak in one of those states.

Of course, what we do know is that because of that asymptomatic spread, once you see an outbreak, in many cases, it's already too late -- Jeremy Diamond, CNN, the White House.


HOLMES: More than 114,000 coronavirus cases are reported in New York state alone. More than 3,500 deaths.


HOLMES: Hospitals are overwhelmed and the virus isn't even at its peak. CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro looks at how that state is coping.


EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Another day of preparing for the worst here in New York, the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the Jacob Javits Center will be converted into a field hospital, specifically for coronavirus patients, 2,500 beds specifically to help with the pandemic.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): It's going to be very staff intensive, very equipment intensive but the theory there is, to the best we can, relieve the entire hospital system downstate by bringing those COVID- 19 patients to Javits and from the intake to the treatment.

And it's going to be very difficult to run that large a facility. But if that works and if that works well, that changes the numbers dramatically.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: In other news, the governor accepted 1,000 ventilators from the government of China as well as another load of supplies from that country.

Other states in the United States, Oregon, sending 140 ventilators to this state for -- to a governor and to a mayor, who still say they need more material and more personnel to be able to handle the apex of this virus, which they expect to come in a week or maybe a little more -- Evan McMorris-Santoro, CNN, New York.


HOLMES: So the worst is apparently yet to come for many countries. Dr. Peter Drobac is a global health expert with the Oxford Business School in the U.K.

Let's talk about these test kits that are such a big issue in the U.K.

How important is it to get them, get them distributed and to more people, both for health care workers but to track and isolate the asymptomatic?

Or is it just more mitigation now?

DR. PETER DROBAC, GLOBAL HEALTH EXPERT, UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD: It's extremely important and this is I think one of the biggest failures we've seen here in the U.K. and that's adequate testing. We still really only test hospitalized patients and have no idea the size of the epidemic and where it's spreading right now.

Even health care workers, only about 1 percent have been able to get tested. And so what you find now is that, when the health system is undergoing tremendous strain with the surge in COVID-19 patients, a health worker who gets a cough has to take two weeks off in self- isolation without being able to be tested to know if they have coronavirus or not.

This needs to be sorted out and the only way we're going to get out of lockdown is to have better intelligence about where the epidemic is spreading.

HOLMES: Same problem we're seeing in the U.S. as well.

How well is the stay-at-home instruction working there?

People in London are saying it's a beautiful day and too many people look like they're going to go out and enjoy it.

DROBAC: The weather is lovely and we do worry about that this weekend. If you look back over the past 12 days, since the lockdown was announced, social movements have decreased very significantly. And it looks like it's going to have good effect.

Now it's a little early. We expect three weeks before we see the effect of that intervention in the number of hospitalizations and deaths. Early signs are promising. But it's very important that everyone sticks with it, doesn't get antsy and hopefully resists the temptation to get outside with the nice weather.

HOLMES: There's a lot of debate in the U.S. over what wasn't done, what wasn't acted on, despite any number of reports and studies over years, as recently as last year, warning of the shortages that the U.S. is watching unfold.

Is there a similar report in the U.K. in how the response has been handled?

DROBAC: Absolutely. I think it was too little and too late and marked by complacency in the beginning. The reasons for it were slightly different in the U.K. Here there was an explicit decision made early on to not test and to try to have a controlled spread of the virus through the population with a hope of getting herd immunity, meaning at least 60 percent of the population would get infected.

When it became clear how catastrophic that would be in terms of how many people would die, hundreds of thousands, they reversed course in early March.

But by that point we had lost six weeks of time, when we should have been preparing the health system, buying test kits and other things to get ready and we've been behind the curve ever since.

HOLMES: And time lost, lives lost. I know you do a lot of work as well in Africa and I'm wondering about your concerns elsewhere around the world.


HOLMES: Africa, for example, where many nations do not have good medical infrastructure, where people are crammed together out of necessity, where millions can't even really wash their hands properly, it just seems to me to be terrifying, the potential of what could happen there.

DROBAC: You're right, the cases of many cases in the global south are small so far and many have acted decisively to stem the spread.

But we're talking about like in Liberia, for example, where there may be only a handful of ventilators in the whole country, you can imagine the catastrophe if we got the spread of the disease in countries like that.

Some of us find social distancing and shelter in place to be inconvenient but if you don't know where your next meal is coming from, it's a matter of survival. For a lot of families living on the edge, particularly in poor countries, this extended period of lockdown is going to be very difficult.

HOLMES: Yes, hard to even contemplate. Dr. Peter Drobac, thank you for your insight.

DROBAC: Pleasure.

HOLMES: President Trump is once again suggesting that the country should get back to work. He says he is considering putting together a separate Coronavirus Task Force, focused on reopening the economy.

That economy going through a devastating period at the moment, a staggering 6.6 million Americans filing for unemployment in the last week. The restaurant industry among the hardest hit, with dining in largely a thing of the past.

I spoke to an award-winning chef and restaurateur a short time ago and asked him if the government is doing enough.


HUGH ACHESON, CHEF AND RESTAURATEUR: There is a threading together that makes a really strong fabric in this country, which is small business. And when we pull that apart and fray it and provide them with nothing, we fall apart.

We've seen that with the unemployment rolls this week. This is not a bailout. This is an investment in the CARE Act and PPE into the restaurant business and the hospitality industry and small businesses overall to support it, to bring it back, to invest in it.

It is a means of this economy and this culture that we have. It's so important that we have restaurants right now. Most of all, I'm just worried about all sorts of things right now but mostly about undocumented workers in this country, which are very much tied to our industry in a lot of ways, that they won't have anything to fall back on.

So we just have to make a lot of headway in a lot of different areas. We were the first line of defense against a war. And we got knocked over faster than anything. And we put up a good fight every day. This is what we do. But we didn't win this one.


HOLMES: All right, Spain looking to extend its state of emergency as its number of confirmed cases overtakes that of Italy. We're live in Madrid just ahead.

Also, when we come back, if you are teaching your kids at home, we have tips from experts and from kids as well about what helps them learn and what does not. We'll be right back.





HOLMES: Spain is set to extend its restrictions on movement and businesses through most of this month. The decision coming as data tracked by Johns Hopkins shows the country has overtaken Italy in its number of confirmed virus cases.

But while infections are rising, there are signs that the increase rate might be slowing. Journalist Al Goodman joins me now from Madrid with the latest.

You get the numbers stabilizing.

But what does that mean? AL GOODMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is what the Spanish officials have been talking about for almost two weeks, that they're trying to reach the peak so they can start to push the numbers down.

But the key numbers, the numbers of new cases, deaths, even though they are second in the world behind Italy, the absolute numbers and percentage increases as you just said, they're moderating.

So we're seeing increases that we hadn't seen in quite a while in terms of the moderate growth of this. And there seems to be an easing on the intensive care unit beds.

Nonetheless, the prime minister announcing on Saturday that the lockdown order would be extended for another two weeks. Basically he and other officials saying they don't want to let everybody out on Easter Sunday, which is when it was supposed to end.

They don't want to let everybody come out suddenly and have a repeat and have to do it all over again. So it will be a six-week extension. This is a very hard extension for the Spanish people and traditionally Roman Catholic Spain.

Palm Sunday normally would see a big attendance at mass. And Holy Week is a holiday as well as a religious festival for much of Spain. So that Good Friday's a national holiday. There are processions. People go away to see relatives, second homes.

So basically being told to stay inside is a huge burden as well as also a major hit on the economy -- Michael.

HOLMES: Yes, and to that point, Al, just briefly, I'm wondering how Spaniards are adjusting to the stresses of the lockdown, Barbie Nadeau was telling us yesterday that people are dissatisfied. There are concerns over crime, domestic violence, that sort of thing.

What is the situation in Spain in terms of the tolerance mood?

GOODMAN: The senior police and civil guard officials, who have been briefing every day alongside health officials, have been talking about domestic violence, that that is going up.

They've been talking about the numbers of Spaniards who have tried to violate the lockdown order. So you could go out to get food, you can go out to the pharmacy. You can walk your dog but you can't be out walking around. They've issued 90,000 fines, starting at $100, for people who were trying to get around that.


GOODMAN: They've arrested 1,200 people and crime has continued, including takeout delivery of food, can come to your house, police arrested a couple guys who were using that as a cover to deliver drugs to people's homes -- Michael.

HOLMES: Goodness me, 1,200 arrests. Al Goodman, good to see you, thanks there, in Madrid. You know it's an extraordinary moment in time when this happens. Queen

Elizabeth is about to address the U.K. about the coronavirus crisis. Now her televised speech is going to be broadcast Sunday night, if you're watching us in the U.K., it will be at 8 o'clock in the evening.

The queen rarely addresses the nation like this but the pandemic warrants it. More than 42,000 confirmed infections in the U.K. as of Saturday with more than 4,300 deaths. Health officials warning the death toll likely will be high for the next couple of weeks.

The pregnant partner of prime minister Boris Johnson says she is recovering from symptoms of the disease, although she hasn't actually been tested. She was symptomatic. Boris Johnson did test positive and continues to self-isolate.

Let's bring in Nick Paton Walsh from London.

And I know you've been looking into this issue of testing, which is still a big issue in the U.S. and one that is not sorted in the U.K., right?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Absolutely, a global shortage of tests. But the United Kingdom lagging behind in the realization that this is key in fighting the disease, partly because the free U.K. health service, the National Health Service, is struggling to put its doctors back to work, nearly a tenth out of work because they cannot get the tests that show they are not infected.

But this two weeks ahead is a key period for the United Kingdom. Yesterday, they reported another 708 deaths. Cast your mind back about a week ago, two weeks ago, before the death toll picked up in the U.S. that was a staggering number, now part of daily life here.

I'm up on Hampstead Heath, a popular park. And even after 8:00 in the morning, it is pretty busy, people trying to keep their distance. But officials have warned that if they don't see people adhering to social distancing, they will close public spaces.

We're now in an uncomfortable moment of truth for the United Kingdom in the two weeks ahead, where their NHS service struggles to deal with the surge in cases and see how fast it can keep up with the promise of testing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is no longer needed for us to identify every case.

WALSH (voice-over): For the U.K., testing was not a priority a month ago, yet now it is.

BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: Because it is so important.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why now? WALSH: The U.K.'s sudden rush to testing perhaps explained by a rapid health care testing center. Behind me here, nearly a tenth of health care workers aren't turning up to work because they are not sure if they have the disease. That's a question increasingly difficult for Britons to answer.

Here in Cambridge is a gold standard, Samba 2 and yes, it is named after the dance, results in 90 minutes and it's easy to test and process.

HELEN LEE, CEO, DIAGNOSTICS FOR THE REAL WORLD: I can teach it to you if you know how to cook, you know how to do Samba, which leaves half of the men out.

WALSH (voice-over): One line means negative. Two, a slight infection. Three, a bad one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you are negative.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kickstarted by $3 million from a wealthy donor. The company says it costs $24,000 a machine and $38 a test. But they can't make enough of them to ensure its 99 percent accuracy fast enough. The U.K. health service wants a lot, now, they say. Health workers, officials everyone all want a test but that's just not possible.

LEE: It's really, I said, like a worldwide tsunami and you don't have the life jacket for the whole world.

WALSH (voice-over): And here in a cramped, airless office in Old Street, London a life jacket for sale. Right Angled used to do health DNA testing and is now repurposing kits to test the coronavirus for about $250 less if you are a health care worker. You receive it at home and express mail it to their lab. The results come about three days later.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are talking thousands in the period of time of one week since we launched.

WALSH: So something in the region of 200,000 pounds at least worth of inventory coming to you at the moment?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's not all coming from individuals. We're talking about bulk orders coming from private clinics.

WALSH: So you open this straightforward, sterile there, put it in your mouth, back of your throat?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the back of your throat and gag. And keep doing this for a minute.

WALSH (voice-over): It's cramped here, not ideal. They declined to name the lab they use, yet say it has government approval.


WALSH (voice-over): But no home testing method does yet, U.K. officials told CNN, we don't have confidence in their reliability.

WALSH: What would you say to anyone looking at what you are doing here and was torn between deciding whether you are a good Samaritan offering a service in whole or whether you are making money out of a crisis?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We say we are simply offering a service at a very reduced price from what other providers are doing.

WALSH (voice-over): The U.K. behind in a global race to test with still no mass solution at hand.


WALSH: Fundamentally, the U.K. is going into a very dark period, essentially what the queen addresses tonight will be to shore people up for ahead. But there have been mixed messages. We don't want to test now; we do want to test. Take a daily run somewhere like this. But at the same time, avoid public gatherings of more than two.

This place here will fill up, in another sign of Britain straining to listen to the advice given by a government, whose figurehead, Boris Johnson, is locked away in isolation. A very trying two to three weeks as the United Kingdom sees whether the government messages of preparedness are enough to get it through, 700 dead reported a day, staggering at any time at all.

But in the global crisis, a number we hear too often.

HOLMES: Important not to get used to these numbers, every one of them a human being. Great reporting, Nick Paton Walsh there.

Scientists around the world racing to find a vaccine against this deadly virus. Why a researcher in Germany is excited about the potential he sees in a century-old drug. We'll be right back.





HOLMES: And welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is time to check the headlines for you this hour.


HOLMES: And turning to Louisiana, a truly sobering announcement Saturday by the mayor of New Orleans. The city's mortuaries have reached their limit and cannot accommodate or even pick up more bodies.

This comes as the number of confirmed virus cases went up by more than 2,000 in Louisiana between Friday and Saturday. CNN's Ed Lavandera is in New Orleans with more.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The state of Louisiana is bracing for what could be a very difficult week. These are the coming days, where the governor of this state and medical officials have been warning that the onslaught of coronavirus cases here in this state could begin to tax hospitals across the state, with a shortage of beds, ventilators, medical equipment that they so desperately need.

The latest numbers we have is that there are nearly 12,500 cases in the state, just over 400 deaths as well. And the numbers that state officials and medical officials look at the most is the number of beds and ventilators being used. And that continues on an upward trend as well.

To prepare for all of this, medical teams here have unveiled and say that the makeshift hospital at the New Orleans Convention Center, it will be up and ready to go by Monday morning and will be accepting its first patients.

That thousand-bed hospital unit set up there will treat coronavirus patients but not necessarily the ones that need the most acute and serious attention. These are people who are not quite ready to go home, still need around the clock medical attention.

The first patients will be arriving there and the hope is that will alleviate pressure on the hospitals, especially here in the New Orleans area. This is the area that has seen by far the most cases in this state. And it has become so dire here, this is what the mayor has said here in recent days of just how dire the situation is in this city.


LATOYA CANTRELL, NEW ORLEANS MAYOR: Our coroner's office is at capacity as it relates to our dead bodies of our loved ones. Mortuaries cannot even go pick them up or store because they're out of capacity.

I've had to ask the federal government for additional refrigeration so that we can take care of our people while they're resting in God's peace but not resting well, because they haven't been laid to rest as they deserve.


LAVANDERA: Medical and state officials here say they have been basing a lot of their projections on what will happen in these hospitals on the scientific models and data coming in to these teams.

And one of the grim predictions that they are looking at in these numbers is the projected death toll, the death toll that could be reached here in the state of Louisiana and that total they're seeing right now is just over 1,800. And that is the same number of people that died here during Hurricane Katrina 15 years ago -- Ed Lavandera, CNN, New Orleans.


HOLMES: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is allowing people who have recovered from coronavirus to donate their plasma, which may be filled with potent antibodies. CNN's Paul Vercammen has the story of one COVID-19 survivor doing that right now, hoping to help others get well.


PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The antibody-rich plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients is valuable to hospitals because they can use it to treat current patients who are in dire straits.

Here at St. Joseph's Hospital in Orange, one of the only in the West, they found their man, Jason Garcia, 36 years old, recovered from COVID-19.


VERCAMMEN (voice-over): Garcia was going through some tough times of his own. He had been isolated from his family inside his house. He couldn't even pick up his 11-month-old daughter. He was getting served food underneath the door.

But once Garcia recovered, they found that they could use him here. He donated his A-positive blood to one person at this hospital, who is undergoing some very tough times. They say that patient turned around. Then blood went to a second patient; it will go to a third and Garcia is ecstatic.


JASON GARCIA, COVID-19 PLASMA DONOR: It felt amazing. It felt good. I am glad that the nightmare of testing positive and the fear, the dread to, you know, know that I recovered and now that this bad thing can now, potentially, my antibodies are there to give to other people and potentially help them fight the fight that they are having problems with, you know, and pretty much help them fight the fight of their lives and survive. So I'm glad that this turned out to be a positive thing.


VERCAMMEN: So using the blood from somebody who has survived the disease is a long-time strategy. Now the FDA has approved two trials of treatments from COVID-19 survivors like Jason and this is going to be developed in other areas around the country no doubt -- reporting from Orange, California, I'm Paul Vercammen. Now back to you.


HOLMES: Paul, thank you for that.

We are all looking for signs of hope in the fight against this pandemic. Now scientists in Germany are running tests to see if a 100 year old drug could potentially become a lifeline. Fred Pleitgen with the story.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): As front line health care workers struggle to deal with an influx of coronavirus patients and scientists are racing to develop a vaccine, a microbiologist from Germany's Max Planck Society believes he may have an interim solution.

STEFAN KAUFMANN, MAX PLANCK INSTITUTE FOR INFECTION BIOLOGY: What we propose is we could use an intermediate stage of higher immunity, of higher protective mechanisms.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): It's called VPM1002, an enhanced version of an almost 100 year old tuberculosis vaccine named BCG. And while the two diseases have virtually nothing in common, TB being a bacterial infection, they both can cause severe respiratory problems. He believes VPM1002 would boost the immune system to help it fight off infections with coronavirus.

KAUFMANN: To provide a kind of innate, non-specific immunity against other infectious diseases, that includes viruses that cause pulmonary diseases and coronavirus is one of them.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Researchers are gearing up for trials with groups at high risk of suffering severe complications from coronavirus, medical professionals and elderly patients. An advantage of VPM1002 clinical trials as a tuberculosis vaccine have almost been completed and so far the drug has proven to safe.

Now they need to see if it really is effective against COVID-19, which could take several months; then it could be available fast, the professor says.

KAUFMANN: Our hope is that we can at least reduce significantly the proportion of individuals who develop disease and, hopefully, the disease is also milder.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): If proven effective, VPM1002 should still only be used as an interim solution, saving lives until a targeted vaccine is market ready. U.S. Experts believe it could work.

WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: I think it's a very innovative idea. You know the vaccines that we're working on are against the virus itself. This would be a vaccine that stimulates the immune system so that it can fight off COVID-19.

PLEITGEN: The German researchers say if the interim vaccine is effective against COVID-19, they're already working together with some of the biggest manufacturers in the world to try and make sure that millions of doses could become available globally in a very short period of time -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HOLMES: Many Christians now celebrating Palm Sunday, beginning of the Holy Week, the most important week of the liturgical calendar as they get ready for Easter next Sunday. But with the lockdowns all over the world because of the pandemic, this year, of course, will be very different.

Many churches closed, like here in Naples, Italy. And they will be through Easter. Catholic churches in Rome have been closed for weeks, likely the first time in history in many cases.


HOLMES: Also authorities in the Lombardy, Italy, region, they're ordering everyone to wear masks in public. We are joined from Rome by Delia Gallagher to discuss this.

Easter, as we say, usually one of the busiest times of the year for the faithful but also for tourists in Rome.

What is going to be allowed this year?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you say, it's a very strange Easter, not only in Rome but for Christians around the world in lockdown.

On Palm Sunday we normally see thousands of people in the square at St. Peter's for the pope's mass. Remember those beautiful candlelit ceremonies outside the Colosseum for the Stations of the Cross and the events for next weekend for Easter.

And all of that is going to be different this year here in Rome and for Christians around the world. The pope today is going to be livestreaming his mass from a very empty St. Peter's Basilica.

And Christians around the world will be seeing that in their own churches, that priests are going to have to livestream their masses and they will be celebrating, as it were, from the confines of their own home.

Kind of a strange thing, because Easter is sort of the celebration of hope, of new life happening at this time, when there is so much death and bad news.

But there has been a bit of good news for Italy, Michael. Yesterday the numbers of patients in ICU -- excuse me -- declined for the first time since this crisis. That's by about 74 patients. That's a small but significant number because the head of Italy's civil protection said it allowed hospitals to breathe a little bit, took a little bit of the pressure off of hospitals.

And so that number, combined with the kind of slowing down of this curve, the flattening of the curve, the fewer cases of positive people positive for the virus, has allowed authorities here to talk about a little bit of hope for Italy. Obviously, the hope is that trend will continue.

HOLMES: Absolutely. We all hope that. Delia Gallagher there in Rome for us.

We'll take a quick break. With schools closed amid the pandemic, so many parents home schooling their kids or trying to. Ahead, great tips from teachers and children who are learning at home themselves.

Also, this famous horse race found a unique way to give fans a show. We'll have the details after the break.





HOLMES: Face masks are getting pretty hard to find you may have noticed. Some people are making their own. If you don't sew, don't worry, we have a solution for you.

An Esco world scientist has this tutorial, showing you how to make one from paper towel. You'll need a few rubber bands, a stapler as well. Fold it, turn the edges in, insert the rubber bands, staple them, then you'll be good to go.

Not sure how long that would last. It's not likely to offer full protection of course but it will discourage you from touching your face and that's better than nothing, of course.

Now with schools closed around the world because of COVID-19, millions of parents and guardians are now home schoolers, faced with the task of educating their children themselves at home. Good luck with that. Kristie Lu Stout is one of them and she talked to experts and kids about what to do and what to avoid.


KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN ANCHOR: Here in Hong Kong, ask any family about home schooling and prepare to take some notes. Because of the coronavirus, schools have been closed since January. So as the outbreak grows and more and more countries embrace home learning, students here have a few tips to share.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I put away all my phones and iPads in like in maybe my drawer or under my bed because I don't want myself to be distracted by any games or my friends.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it was online, I would just open tabs that are really just necessary, like for learning and like don't open tabs that will like constantly distract you, like social media or like some games.

STOUT: OK, so Samuel and Etta have their act together.

But what about younger students?

What do they need to stay on task?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pencils and pens and book tips (ph) and some books and some blue tissue. Yes.

STOUT (voice-over): Running a virtual classroom can also be tough. And educators here who have pioneered virtual learning recommend tools like Zoom and Google Hangouts.

But what makes a good online lesson?

CAMILLA HUNG, MOTHER AND EDUCATOR: Have fun with them. Interactive learning is the best thing with online. Kids learn more, I feel, when they're online because you talk to them and you use tools on the iPad. And they learn quicker, I feel.

STOUT: When schools are closed for an extended period of time, children also lose a crucial social outlet and cabin fever can set in. But kids, don't lose hope.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eat and play with my toys and play with Legos.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I use WhatsApp, Skype or Zoom.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we can actually talk together or play some video games together so we can stay contact. We really miss each other. And we sometimes have some topics to talk and then we are just very happy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My family, like, we would, like, normally go, like, for, like, a walk or like, something, like, to the countryside on the weekdays like after school but never on the weekend, because there are too many people in the countryside, because everyone wants to escape the city and Hong Kong especially.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Being on Daddy and Mommy's bed.

STOUT: Let me tell you, as a parent, it's hard. I have a 11-year-old daughter who is taking part in daily live video chats in English and Chinese and I have to provide tech support, keep an eye on her to-do list and brush up on my fractions.

And this is the reality for scores of parents across the region here and increasingly the world -- Kristie Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.


HOLMES: OK. Good luck if you're doing it.

We're going to take a break. When we come back, with basically all sports competitions on hold, this famous horse race decided to improvise and give fans a show anyway. We'll have details when we come back.




HOLMES: Well, with much of the world essentially on hold, including sports, Britain's Grand National horse race had to improvise with a virtual reality tournament. CNN's Don Riddell gives us an exciting play by play.


DON RIDDELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Grand National is one of the most popular events in the British sporting calendar. It's a steeplechase horse race run at Aintree, Northwest England, and they've been doing it for more than 180 years.

Of course, there was no National in the U.K. this weekend; the coronavirus has shut down pretty much every aspect of daily life.

But there was a Virtual National. It was even broadcast live on television and it was almost as good as the real thing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So they're off. So the robbie circle (ph) gets them away for the Virtual National 2020.

RIDDELL (voice-over): This isn't the first time they've run the Virtual National but it's the first time anybody has really paid much attention to it. Every detail of the real runners and riders was fed into an algorithm, combined with the weather and firmness of the ground before CGI animation brought it all to life.

And listening to the enthusiastic race commentators, you could almost be fooled into thinking it was the real thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jumped it fantastically well. He's enjoying himself.

RIDDELL (voice-over): The animation brought you both high and low camera angles.


RIDDELL (voice-over): You could hear the sound of the horses, crashing through the fences. And there was even a virtual ambulance following along, just in case. And just like in real life, sometimes the fences were just too daunting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Elegant Escape at the back of the field refused. The other refused to pull up. He's out of the race there.

RIDDELL (voice-over): Had the race been real, the hype would have surrounded the two-time defending champion, Tiger Roll, aiming to become the first horse ever to win it three times in a row and only the second behind the iconic Red Rum to win three in total.

Tiger Roll was in contention and briefly took the lead when Aso crashed spectacularly at the penultimate fence. But in the end, it was the 18-1 shot, Potters Corner that took the prize.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he's closing, Potters Corner, all out. Potters Corner won the Virtual National. Walk in the Mill second, then Any Second Now, Tiger Roll.

RIDDELL: With the recent growth of esports and video games, some provocatively wondered if the new technology would mean the end of real sports. But nobody could have forecast a future, in which a simulation was the only thing to watch.

Whatever, this is all for a good cause. Profits raised from the gambling will be donated to National Health Service charities and, just as good, not a single horse was injured in this year's running of the National -- Don Riddell, CNN, Atlanta.


HOLMES: And that's the best part.

Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM and spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. Do stay with us. We'll have more news in a moment with Natalie Allen. You'll enjoy that.