The widespread use of face masks is a simple and low-cost way to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and according the Jan Hatzius, chief economist at Goldman Sachs, a national mandate to wear masks could have a huge positive effect on the economy.
In a note to clients Tuesday, Hatzius and other Goldman economists said a national mandate to wear masks would increase the percentage of people doing so by 15 to 25 percentage points and push the growth rate of the virus down from 1.6% to about 0.6%.
A renewed shutdown could have similar effects, but at a great economic cost.
“These calculations imply that a face mask mandate could potentially substitute for lockdowns that would otherwise subtract nearly 5% from GDP,” the Goldman team said. “It is important to recognize that this estimate is quite uncertain because it is based on a number of statistical relationships that are all measured with error. Despite the numerical uncertainty, however, our analysis suggests that the economic benefit from a face mask mandate and increased face mask usage could be sizable.”