Newt Gingrich explains what Americans can learn from Italy

The former House speaker says the CDC “blew it” in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States and addresses how realistic it is to open the country by Easter.
8:32 | 03/26/20

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Transcript for Newt Gingrich explains what Americans can learn from Italy
So the news out of Italy continues to be grim. The death toll has passed 7,500, higher than anywhere else in the world, and hospitals are on the brink of collapse, but there seems to be some hope that the rate of new cases seems to be declining because everyone is self- -- what is the word? Quarantining? Isolating. Quarantining. Thanks. Yeah, isolating. Yes. So how are things on the ground where you are? Well, you're exactly right. We have -- everything's closed down except grocery stores and pharmacies and gas stations. The police are here on the street without a legitimate reason. They will fine you up to $8,000. Wow. They're really trying to get people to self-isolate and to recognize that breaking the pattern of the virus is central. They were a little late frankly in starting, but once they started to move, I have been very impressed not just with the government, but also with the Italian people. They are a very happy, very social people. They have taken very well to being disciplined. They know it's life and death, and I think probably in the next few days, we're going to see the peak of the virus which has mostly been in northern Italy. There are about 100,000 Chinese workers living in northern Italy, and the government did not hose off the airline flights early enough, and they had several flights over the course of a week or two bringing the disease in, and it got out of control. Now they're gradually getting it back into control. It's been sobering to watch. Speaker, this is Sara. How long have you and your wife callista been in lockdown? Have you been experiencing any symptoms? Have you gotten outside recently, gotten any fresh air? We can go out and walk around in the yard behind our house, but I have to say first of all, we have his and hers thermometers. We check regularly to make sure our temperatures are fine. We seem to be doing pretty good right now, and we're isolated. She is running the embassy by telephone and by zoom and Skype. All the staff at the embassy is working from home now. They did manage despite being distance first, they managed to wrk with Franklin graham, and they flew an entire hospital into northern Italy with doctors and nurses, and the Italians were very grateful because they were one of the hardest hit towns and they were faced with a very challenging number of people who have the virus up she stays active. She's busy. She was talking with the foreign minister of the Vatican today, but we are being very careful. Particularly in New York, you have got to take this thing very seriously. When you start getting a large number of people who are infected, you've got to self-isolate and you've got to be really careful. Yeah. And newt, maybe you can send that information to the guy who is leading the country because we need people like yourself to remind all these folks, particularly after Meghan was talking about the people on the floor of the senate. You need to get that message to those guys too. I think that's right. I think when they do those briefings, they should probably practice exactly the same physical spacing they want the rest of us to do. In the senate, John Thune had flown home because he hadn't come down with the virus, but he didn't know. Four senators didn't vote because they had self-isolated. That's what they should do. If they have any doubts, you have to remember even if you are going to be all right, you could be carrying the disease to somebody who might die because they have another condition or they're older or whatever. I think that's a good point. I do think the white house when they do these briefings should probably actually exhibit that kind of spacing. Newt, it's Meghan. You know, we have been very worried about you and callista. We have been seeing a lot of videos coming out of Italy that just quite frankly look dystopian. Overrun hospitals, people dying, you know, all over the beds. What can be learned and what lessons from Italy should the United States be heeding right now? Some of them are lessons I think we have taken. I think candidly president trump got a lot of criticism early on for cutting off the flights from China. In retro spect if you look at what happened in northern Italy, he was almost certainly right to have done that. Yes, I agree. I think the buildup that we're seeing right now -- the amazing thing about the American system is how it does convert very quickly. The guy who invented my pillow just announced yesterday they've quit making pillows. They're working full-time on face masks and they'll be producing thousands and thousands of them. You all I think were talking about the number of places now have shifted from making drinking alcohol to making hand sanitizer, and I personally think by next month we'll be drowning in it so many people have moved in that direction. I think we've got to move to scale. What I worry about the most, we've lost about three weeks early on when the center for disease control, which is a great world institution, but in this case they blew it, and they didn't get the tests right early it cost us about three weeks of production, and that's showing up all over the country. We don't have enough tests yet. I think that's something we've got to work on, but I think you see the system starting to ramp up. I think they were exactly right. I'm a fiscal conservative. As you know, I helped announce the federal budget for four this is like being in a war. The bill that the senate passed is sort of the minimum starting point, and my guess is there will be two more bills before the year is over because we're in a real worldwide contagion, and we have to do what we can to make sure that the American people don't get crushed economically while we're trying to crush the virus. I think it's a really important balance. Now in terms of that balancing act, speaker, this is president trump wants to reopen the U.S. Economy by Easter, and he said earlier this week that he's hoping to see packed churches here on Easter Sunday. Now you know I'm a practicing catholic. The catholic church is usually kind of behind the times on this, but I haven't been able to go to church, a packed church in awhile because I think in mid-march the catholic church stopped all masses. Is this realistic? If you went door to door at the Vatican right now, would anyone suggest packing churches on Easter Sunday? Well, we're in a city of Rome which has 900 churches, and none of them have mass. If you can imagine how big a change that is. In Washington, they streamed their Sunday noon mass, and so you can partake on mass -- St. Patrick's cathedral as well. Right, but you wouldn't go in the building. St. Patrick's is doing the same thing. I talked to the cardinal earlier this week. I think the president's direction is right, but problem with speed, old capitalist. For example, you have north and South Dakota. You have 46 people with the disease in South Dakota and 49 in North Dakota. Well, there's no reason to actually close an entire state like that over that side. What you want to do is isolate the people who have the disease, keep them isolated, recognize you've got to constantly test them. This is where not having enough tests has been a real problem I think because if you look at places like Sweden which has done a good job of this, they did not go to total shutdown. Frankly in New York, and I don't know how you would do it in new York City, but you almost have to have a total shutdown. Yeah. When you have the level of virus you now have in westchester and New York City, the only solution is to go to an Italian kind of total shutdown. I have to say one more thing.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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