Eric Schmidt (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
While many experts and economists worry of a potential "unemployment hangover" lasting even after the economy is reopened, Schmidt believes it can be avoided through job retraining and reskilling.
"One way to think about it is that there are jobs being created by virtue of the digital platforms, as well as there are jobs being lost because of the loss of faith in the analog system because your retail stores and so forth are shut down," Schmidt said. "So the society just needs to change more quickly to this new paradigm."
In order to do that, Schmidt believes that larger companies like Amazon, Walmart, Costco and Target, who have all seen "very significant growth" while other retail companies and brands have been hurt, need to lead the way by hiring individuals displaced by the virus.
"It appears as though the distribution infrastructure, the networks, the winners are winning the majority of the share and the lesser parts of the infrastructure are suffering as a result," Schmidt said. "As you get a more networked society, you tend to produce network winners, which become the distribution platforms, the branding platforms and so forth, and they need to be the ones hiring."
Ticker Security Last Change Change % AMZN AMAZON.COM INC. 2,283.32 +114.45 +5.28% WMT WALMART INC. 129.00 +3.70 +2.95% COST COSTCO WHOLESALE CORPORATION 314.14 +14.52 +4.85% TGT TARGET CORP. 108.38 +3.70 +3.53% CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC COULD PUSH GLOBAL ECONOMY INTO WORST RECESSION SINCE GREAT DEPRESSION, IMF SAYS
In terms of actually reopening the country and restarting the economy, Schmidt said that both the health problem and economic problem need to be solved at the same time, but that we have very few tools at our disposal to actually do that.
"We don't have mathematical models that understand the network paths that people follow," Schmidt said. "We didn't take the time in the last month or two to collectively figure out what the contact points of everyone are. That's a lost opportunity."
He added that the most likely scenario to reopen would be a "series of unlocks" with social distancing in stores and restaurants that will last for much longer than most people think.
"This will change our society for much longer than we think," Schmidt warned. "It's not going to be a quick recovery back to the hugging and kissing in restaurants and all the kind of behaviors that were perfectly fine before the pandemic. People will remember, and until there's a broadly available vaccine and herd immunity, it will be dangerous to engage in some of those activities, especially if you're older. " THE CORONAVIRUS ECONOMIC RECOVERY REOPENING WILL BE FRAGILE, PARTIAL, AND SLOW
He expects that each state will have a different process and timeline for reopening but is worried that states don't have the tools to make the decision to reopen accurately. Instead it would require collective action to get the technology and models funded and built.
But rather than involving big tech companies, Schmidt believes there are plenty of people within each state who are just as capable.
Ticker Security Last Change Change % GOOGL ALPHABET INC. 1,265.23 +54.82 +4.53% AAPL APPLE INC. 287.05 +13.80 +5.05% "If I were the governor of a state, I would go to the university and all the people that I know and I'd say I want the 50 smartest technical people in my state," Schmidt said. "Every one of them has a smart university full of smart, smart folks there, and I want you guys to build me a model of how I can reopen my economy with the least risk to health. "
Schmidt said the model would be used to assess the "incremental danger" of the coronavirus, providing governors with exact information on how many people would be infected if they opened up schools, for example.
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He believes the hardest decision to make will be when to open schools, primarily due to the difficulty for public schools to practice social distancing and because we "don't fully understand the transmission path with kids and their parents and especially their grandparents".
Despite a model like that being nonexistent, Schmidt said it's a decision that only the states will have to make, even with a lack of information.
"If I were the decision-maker, I would say I'm flying blind," Schmidt said. "How could you possibly expect me to make the right decision? Probably the most important decision that I'll make in my political career from the standpoint of serving our nation, and I don't have that information. That's a problem that I think can be solved at a state level."
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In terms of testing, Schmidt said that while we don't have to test everyone, uniform testing across all states is the only way to get an accurate picture of how every person is being impacted by the virus.
"We don't know how many asymptomatic carriers there were, we don't know how many people got sick and got better and we're never in the testing pools, we don't know how to count them," Schmidt said. "We don't know the transmission rate within families, although we have estimates broadly. So we're going to have to make some assumptions."
While many people are concerned about opening before an official vaccine is on the way or PPE has reached a sufficient amount, Schmidt warned that in another month or two, a prolonged shutdown will lead to a "very significant bankruptcy cycle in many industries" and that once that cycle starts, it will become very hard to restart the economy.
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While Schmidt acknowledged America has been behind on dealing with the coronavirus, he believes that America can lead in the effort to find the vaccine if we give more money to scientific research.
"We are late to this party, but if we got our act together with respect to research in these areas and these mechanisms for social distancing that I'm describing, we could ultimately become the leader because all the other countries have the same problems with respect to a resurgence of the virus and so forth," Schmidt said. "Those ideas could become adopted by our democratic partners and friends who are struggling." President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the Rose Garden of the White House, Tuesday, April 14, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Schmidt's comments came the same day that President Trump announced that some portions of the country could reopen sooner than the end of the month.
Trump said he will be reaching out to various companies in the coming days to gain insight on their individual situations and find out if they are ready to reopen the economy.
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