Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt told CNBC Tuesday that the US must continue investing in rapid testing of the coronavirus in order for corporate offices to reopen in earnest.
"There are many technologies that enable quick tests, and with quick tests companies could be opened. People could go to work," Schmidt said on Squawk Box.
But America still lacks sufficient testing infrastructure to run large-scale, rapid turnaround testing, said Schmidt, who leads a group organized by the Democratic government of Andrew Cuomo to help New York State boost its post-coronavirus economy to improve.
Schmidt criticized the politicians in Washington for not taking rapid tests into greater account in earlier aid packages. "In those trillions of dollars, we haven't put the structures in place to run quick tests," he said.
Testing for the coronavirus in the United States has improved over the past few months after facing a number of challenges in the early stages of the pandemic. However, the summer increase in some cases, particularly in the American South and West, again burdened the processing time for the test results and highlighted the remaining shortcomings.
However, Schmidt refers to a different type of coronavirus test than the usual laboratory-based diagnostic tests. Fast tests that produce results in minutes are on the rise. Some of these rapid tests would be done at home. Others could be delivered to offices or schools.
While these tests are likely to be cheaper and processed more quickly, there are concerns about their accuracy in detecting infection. And inaccurate results from a rapid test can create confusion, such as earlier this month when Ohio Governor Mike DeWine mistakenly tested positive for a planned visit to President Donald Trump.
In his opinion, Schmidt said: "The test specificity and accuracy of these [rapid] test systems is currently quite good. However, they are not yet generally available. That is a tragedy."
Schmidt, Google CEO from 2001 to 2011, said further investment in testing for Covid-19 is needed as the virus will continue to circulate, albeit not at an epidemic level, for years to come.
"The virus will be with us in one form or another for the rest of our lives, hopefully just like the flu is under control. We will need test forms to make sure we keep it under control," said Schmidt, who kicked off Tuesday A podcast called "Reimagine with Eric Schmidt," which features conversations with world leaders about rebuilding a world changed by the coronavirus.
In the short term, Schmidt said strict adherence to the wearing of face masks and more generally available rapid tests was vital. With both of them he claimed: "We could go back to work."