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Goldman Sachs economist just said the most obvious thing ever about face masks

Published Jun 30th, 2020 9:14PM EDT
Face mask
Image: YURI KOCHETKOV/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
  • Goldman Sachs’ chief economist has said that a national face mask mandate could not only benefit public health, it could even go so far as to save the economy.
  • He made the claim in a note to clients Monday, arguing for a national requirement that everyone wear face masks in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • This comes as President Trump has voiced skepticism about face masks, while former Vice President Joe Biden has said he would sign an order requiring them.

With health experts now issuing dire warnings about the trajectory of the coronavirus pandemic over the coming weeks and months, economists are now weighing in with recommendations for what they think ordinary people can do to bend upward slope of cases in the US. Are you ready for this? It’s a really simple recommendation, and most of you are probably already doing this anyway — it’s just the holdouts amongst you who are presenting such a worrisome exception right now:

Wear. Your. Face. Mask.

“We find that face masks are associated with significantly better coronavirus outcomes,” Goldman Sachs chief economist Jan Hatzius wrote in a note to clients Monday. “Our baseline estimate is that a national mandate could raise the percentage of people who wear masks by 15 (percentage points) and cut the daily growth rate of confirmed cases by 1.0 (percentage point) to 0.6%.

“These calculations,” Hatzius’ note continues, “imply that a face mask mandate could potentially substitute for lockdowns that would otherwise subtract nearly 5% from GDP.”

To make this point from a much starker perspective, touching on something most ordinary people are probably afraid of around the country (renewed lockdowns), Goldman Sachs’ chief economist says that some kind of national mandate could not only prove a public health benefit and thus be an economic benefit for the country — such a mandate could also be a substitute for “renewed lockdowns” that would otherwise take another bite out of the economy. Those lockdowns prevented millions of infections that otherwise didn’t materialize, according to researchers, but no one, of course, wants to return to them.

This attitude toward masks from the Goldman Sachs economist stands in contrast to the skepticism toward masks that’s been exhibited by President Trump.

“Masks are a double-edged sword,” the president told The Wall Street Journal in an interview. “People touch them. And they grab them and I see it all the time. They come in, they take the mask. Now they’re holding it now in their fingers. And they drop it on the desk and then they touch their eye and they touch their nose.”

Trump’s rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, on the other hand, has said he would sign an order forcing Americans to wear face masks, if elected.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.

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