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Ex-Google CEO Says Business Must Reimagine For Post-Virus World

Henry Goldman

(Bloomberg) -- Former Google Inc. Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt, appointed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to lead a commission on reviving the state’s economy, said businesses and individuals must reimagine their futures as they emerge from the coronavirus lockdown.

New York’s emergence from the pandemic will depend on a wider availability and use of online technology in health care, commerce and education, and a change in how people view working in offices and at home, Schmidt said Thursday in a Bloomberg TV discussion with David Rubenstein, chairman and co-founder of the Carlyle Group.

“Without significant changes, people won’t be able to work efficiently,” he said. “We have to find ways to get through this Covid crisis before a vaccine is available.”

New York, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, is making plans to reopen some regions in phases beginning tomorrow. Cuomo and Schmidt have spoken of the need to rethink and improve the state’s transportation and health-care systems in the aftermath of Covid-19.

Schmidt said the 15-member Reimagine New York State task force will focus on using the Internet in health-care delivery, providing widespread access to broadband service and rethinking rules for the workplace. He expects the panel will issue initial findings in three to six months.

“The state needs help, as do all the states, and this pandemic is going to go on for a pretty long time,” Schmidt said. “We better get used to dealing with it and making some adjustments.”

The lack of widespread testing in the U.S. has “trained all our citizens that they can’t be sure if they meet someone on the street that they won’t get it,” Rubenstein said of the virus.

Tele-medicine can help doctors diagnose cases without office visits, empowering them to triage the patients who may need hospitalization or an in-office visit, Schmidt said. Online and offline retail will be more blended, as will learning online and in school, he said.

A vaccine is likely within the next 12 months, Schmidt said, because of the advent of artificial intelligence, which can replicate the human intuitive process in theorizing approaches to neutralizing it.

“I’m an insufferable optimist about America and our entrepreneurial capability,” Schmidt said. “If we could just agree on these basic rules -- like more testing is good, more data is good, building the surveillance systems -- we can get through this, and we could get through it a lot more quickly than people think.”

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