National mask mandate could save 5 percent of GDP, economists say

National mask mandate could save 5 percent of GDP, economists say

The dire situation in the United States has raised the specter of another round of state-level stay-at-home orders to halt the pandemic’s spread and caused a number of governors to pause or reverse their ongoing reopening plans. Against this background, a team of economists at investment bank Goldman Sachs has published an analysis suggesting more painful shutdowns could be averted if the United States implements a nationwide mask mandate. “A face mask mandate could potentially substitute for lockdowns that would otherwise subtract nearly 5% from GDP,” the team, led by the company’s chief economist Jan Hatzius, writes. It’s worth noting that the authors of the report are economists and not public health experts. Their primary motivation is to protect the economic interests of Goldman Sachs’ investors, which is why they’re interested in the effects of federal policy on gross domestic product. But their findings are in line with a number of other published studies on the efficacy of masks. The Goldman Sachs report notes that the United States is a global outlier with respect to face mask use, which is widespread in Asia and currently mandated in many European countries. While the CDC “recommends” the use of masks in public and 20 states plus the District of Columbia have implemented their own mandates, there is no binding national policy, with wide regional variations in mask use around the country. Using state-level survey data, the authors first demonstrate that these mandates increased mask usage in their respective states: “We estimate that statewide ...
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