National face mask mandate for Covid-19 can replace lockdown and save economy from 5% GDP loss, economists say
Goldman Sachs analyzed that official orders could raise the fraction of Americans using protective gear by 15% and reduce Covid-19 growth rate by 1%
Americans are divided over their views on covering their faces with masks, even as evidence suggests that they offer a layer of protection against Covid-19. Now, a new analysis makes a case for a national mandate on face masks, adding that it could reduce the blow to the crumbling economy, thereby preventing a 5% GDP loss. In the analysis, economists from Goldman Sachs analyzed the effects of masks on the health and economy. “We find that face masks are associated with significantly better coronavirus outcomes,” Jan Hatzius, Goldman’s chief economist, reportedly wrote. He added that their calculations suggest that a face mask mandate could potentially substitute lockdowns that otherwise hurt the economy.
The US slipped into recession in February, according to experts. In the first quarter of 2020, the GDP fell 4.8%, mirroring the economic impact of Covid-19 shutdowns, introduced to slow the spread of the disease. With the new coronavirus gaining momentum in the Southern and Western US, businesses are closing their doors again.
On the health front, the economists observed a link between usage of face coverings and better health outcomes. To arrive at this, the team looked at data on when masks came into use in the US and then compared it with infection and death rates. "A national mask mandate could increase US face mask usage by statistically significant and economically large amounts, especially in states such as Florida and Texas that currently don't have a comprehensive mandate and are seeing some of the worst outbreaks," Hatzius wrote.
Currently, more than a dozen states require residents to mandatorily use face coverings, when social distancing is not possible. Both the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) have recommended masks in crowded settings.
Following state orders, the percentage of people claiming they “always” or “frequently” wear masks increased by about 25 percentage points in 30 days. And after that, the proportion climbed more than 40% percentage points. Further, a national mandate could raise the fraction of Americans using this protective clothing by 15 percentage points and reduce the growth rate by 1 percentage point to 0.6%, they add. These estimates suggested that a federal order could save the economy from taking a 5% hit."Our analysis suggests that the economic benefit from a face mask mandate and increased face mask usage could be sizable," Hatzius wrote.
"However, even in the absence of a national mandate, state and local authorities might as well broaden mandates in ways that ultimately mimic the impact of a national mandate," the researchers wrote. "Either way, our analysis suggests that the economy could benefit significantly from such moves, especially when compared with the alternative of a return to broader lockdown."
Masks have become a political issue in the country. US President Donald Trump said Americans wore masks to show their disapproval of him. In light of the emerging evidence on the benefits, experts are urging people to use face coverings in public. Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said: "It is critical that we all take the personal responsibility to slow the transmission of Covid-19 and embrace the universal use of face coverings. Specifically, I'm addressing the younger members of our society, the millennials, and Generation Zs."