Google's former CEO Eric Schmidt says people should 'be a little bit grateful' for companies like Amazon that have 'really helped us out' in the coronavirus fight

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Google's former CEO Eric Schmidt says people should 'be a little bit grateful' for companies like Amazon that have 'really helped us out' in the coronavirus fight

eric schmidt google chairman

Axel Schmidt/Getty Images

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt said companies have "stepped up" during the coronavirus.

People should be grateful for the role technology companies like Amazon have played during the coronavirus pandemic, former Google CEO and chairman Eric Schmidt said Tuesday.

"The benefit of these corporations, which we love to malign, in terms of the ability to communicate, the ability to deal with health, the ability to get information, is profound," Schmidt said during a video interview hosted by The Economic Club of New York.

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"Think about what your life would be like in America without Amazon," Schmidt said, adding that people should "be a little bit grateful that these companies got the capital, did the investment, built the tools that we're using now and have really helped us out."

Schmidt said that having to respond to the outbreak without the tools provided by Amazon and other internet companies would be much more difficult, echoing an argument he made in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal several weeks earlier that tech companies should play a more significant role in the country's infrastructure once the pandemic is over.

"Companies like Amazon know how to supply and distribute efficiently. They will need to provide services and advice to government officials who lack the computing systems and expertise," Schmidt wrote.

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During the interview Tuesday, Schmidt repeatedly expressed frustration with the US government's response to the pandemic, asking why it didn't act more quickly and suggesting that officials are making decisions "flying blind."

"We probably were one month late in the way we organized ourselves," Schmidt said, arguing that more money should have been spent researching the virus, scaling up testing, and developing vaccines and treatments.

"It's now happening," he said, "but that month has cost us lives."

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The US government's decimated pandemic response capabilities helped lead to one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the world, while the tech industry has taken an active role in developing tools and financing efforts to combat the coronavirus.

Apple and Google said this week that they're collaborating on a new technology to track the spread of the virus using Bluetooth; Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn have joined forces to fight misinformation on their platforms; and Amazon has offered to help transport coronavirus kits in the Seattle area.

However, some of these same companies have also come under fire for failing to look out for their own workforces, particularly hourly and contract workers who often have jobs that must be done in person, potentially putting them at a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19.

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Amazon workers in at least 74 of the company's warehouses have tested positive for COVID-19, and many have gone on strike to protest the company's health and safety practices, prompting pushback from lawmakers, while Google and Facebook both faced criticism for initially not allowing their armies of contractors to work remotely.

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