A mandate to wear face masks in public could be a partial “substitute” for future COVID-19 lockdowns, sparing the economy billions of dollars in damage, researchers at investment bank Goldman Sachs say.
By comparing COVID-19 data from 125 countries, and by comparing U.S. counties with and without face mask mandates, the researchers concluded that a government order to wear face masks in public could cut the virus’s infection rate by nearly 60 per cent, and reduce fatalities by nearly half.
To achieve the same result using lockdowns, the government would have to shut down enough activity to cause the economy to shrink 5 per cent, researchers Jan Hatzius, Isabella Rosenberg and Daan Struyven wrote.
Watch: How to make a medical face mask at home, according to the CDC. Story continues below.
“We find that face masks are associated with significantly better coronavirus outcomes,” they wrote, and this “seems to reflect a largely causal impact of masks rather than correlation with other factors (such as reduced mobility or avoidance of large gatherings).”
Looking at the U.S., the researchers found “face mask usage is highest in the Northeast, where the virus situation has improved dramatically in recent months, and generally lower in the South, where the numbers have deteriorated.
“For example, only about 40 per cent of respondents in Arizona say that they ‘always’ wear face masks in public, compared with nearly 80 per cent in Massachusetts.”
The report noted that an “abrupt shift has occurred in the official view on face masks,” noting that the World Health Organization said as recently as March that there is “no specific evidence to suggest that the wearing of masks by the mass population has any potential benefit.”
But the success of countries with a face mask mandate in fighting the coronavirus has changed perceptions.
In Canada, health authorities initially described face masks as “counterproductive,” but by April had acknowledged...