Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward

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

The Washington Post reports:

After a late-spring lull, daily coronavirus cases in the United States have again hit record highs, driven by resurgent outbreaks in states such as Florida, Arizona and California. Hospitals in Houston are on the brink of being overwhelmed, and public health experts worry the pandemic’s death count will soon be climbing in tandem with the daily case load.

The dire situation 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 reopening plans. Against this backdrop, a team of economists at 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 investment bank’s chief economist, Jan Hatzius, writes.

It’s worth noting the 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’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. [Continue reading…]

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