Mandatory Masks Could Bolster Economy, Says Goldman Sachs

A new study touches on both public health and economic concerns

N95 mask
Wearing masks is vitally important right now.
Famartin/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / July 1, 2020 8:30 am

Masks have become a regular sight as the United States — and the world — works to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The importance of wearing masks is something that medical professionals have emphasized, though making mask-wearing universal remains an ongoing task. But if safeguarding your own health and that of the people around you isn’t enough of an incentive, a new Goldman Sachs study suggests another reason to put on a mask when you go outside, and it has to do with the economy.

Specifically, an investigation by a team working for Goldman Sachs chief economist Jan Hatzius indicates that a nationwide mandatory masks policy would be beneficial on a few fronts. CNBC’s Thomas Franck explored the details in a new report.

Hatzius’s report suggests that a mandate would cause an additional 15 percent of Americans to wear masks, which would also dramatically lower the COVID-19 infection rate. This, in turn, would have economic benefits. Working from a study of the economic impact on lockdowns in the United States and abroad, the team came up with a compelling result:

Using those results and a target to reduce daily growth rate by 1 percentage point, Goldman Sachs found that a face mask mandate could potentially substitute for lockdowns that would otherwise subtract nearly 5% from GDP.

In other words, a mandatory mask policy would result in fewer people being infected (and thus fewer people dying as a result of COVID-19), and it would have beneficial economic effects. It’s a compelling argument from multiple sides.

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