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Nationwide mask mandate instead of lockdown could save 5 pc of GDP in US: Economists

As the United States is reeling from the financial impact of coronavirus pandemic leading to uncertainty, economists have suggested that a more painful shutdown could be averted if the country implements a nationwide mask mandate and could save the five per cent of GDP.

ANI | Washington DC | Updated: 01-07-2020 11:55 IST | Created: 01-07-2020 11:38 IST
Nationwide mask mandate instead of lockdown could save 5 pc of GDP in US: Economists
Representative image. Image Credit: ANI

As the United States is reeling from the financial impact of coronavirus pandemic leading to uncertainty, economists have suggested that a more painful shutdown could be averted if the country implements a nationwide mask mandate and could save the five per cent of GDP. A team of economists at Goldman Sachs has published an analysis suggesting that a face mask mandate could potentially substitute for lockdown, The Washington Post reported.

"A face mask mandate could potentially substitute for lockdowns that would otherwise subtract nearly 5 per cent from GDP," the team, led by the investment bank's chief economist, Jan Hatzius, wrote. The Post has warned that authors of the report are economists and not public health experts. Their primary motivation is to protect the economic interests of Goldman Sachs's investors, which is why they are interested in the effects of federal policy on the GDP.

The Goldman Sachs report stated that the US is a global outlier with respect to face mask use, which is widespread in Asia and currently mandated in many European countries. Using state-level survey data, the authors demonstrated that such mandates increased usage in their respective states. "We estimate that statewide mask mandates gradually raise the percentage of people who 'always' or 'frequently' wear masks by around 25 (percentage points) in the 30+ days after signing."

The Post reported that economists then ran a number of analyses at the county and country levels showing higher rates of masks use are associated with lower rates of infection. US county-level data suggest, for instance, that a statewide mask mandate cuts the growth rate of new coronavirus infections by 25 per cent.

Country-level comparisons show a similarly large effect. "Our numerical estimates are that cumulative cases grow 17.3 per cent per week without a mask mandate but only 7.3 per cent with a mask mandate, and that cumulative fatalities grow 29 per cent per week without a mask mandate but only 16 per cent with a mask mandate," the authors wrote. Kate Grabowski, a Johns Hopkins University epidemiologist who was not involved with the Goldman Sachs study, cautioned that it is difficult to tease out the specific effect of mask mandates relative to all the other policy changes states and countries implemented to deal with the pandemic.

"I want to commend (Vice President) Mike Pence for coming out and saying folks should wear masks. "I would love to see President Trump do the same thing," she added. The Vice President urged Americans to wear face masks during an event on Sunday in Dallas. But Trump generally does not wear a mask in public and has been known to criticise those who do.

A recent peer-reviewed study in the journal Health Affairs found that state-level face mask mandates lead to a drop in the daily infection rate and has probably averted hundreds of thousands of additional coronavirus cases by June.


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