A national face mask mandate to curb the spread of the coronavirus might replace renewed lockdowns that could reduce GDP by nearly 5%, a Goldman Sachs report said.
"We find that face masks are associated with significantly better coronavirus outcomes," the report said. "If a face mask mandate meaningfully lowers coronavirus infections, it could be valuable not only from a public health perspective but also from an economic perspective because it could substitute for renewed lockdowns that would otherwise hit GDP."
The report added that "the upshot of our analysis is that a national face mask mandate could potentially substitute for renewed lockdowns that would otherwise subtract nearly 5% from GDP."
The study said that "despite the numerical uncertainty ... our analysis suggests that the economic benefit from a face mask mandate and increased face mask usage could be sizable."
Masks have become the latest political flashpoint in America as supporters of President Donald Trump, who has refused to wear a mask, see them as a violation of their rights.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Trump said some Americans wear masks as a way to “signal disapproval of him.”
At least 16 states have paused or rolled back their reopening plans in response to a surge in new coronavirus cases and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday said that a federal mandate on wearing masks was “long overdue."
At present, the United States is among the less restrictive countries with face mask mandates, the report said, and while the federal government did issue a national “recommendation” to wear masks in public settings in April, many state and local governments have taken more stringent measures.
"However, a recommendation is not a mandate and the governors of both Florida and Texas - the two most heavily affected large states - recently reiterated their opposition to a statewide mask mandate," the study said.
The report said that states that currently don’t have a state-level mandate for wearing masks account for 40% of U.S. total confirmed cases, 45% of U.S. GDP, half of the population, and two-thirds of new infections.
States that currently do have a mandate have experienced a lower average daily growth rate in confirmed infections of 0.8% in the past seven days, the study said.
"So will the U.S. adopt a national face mask mandate?" the report asked. "This is uncertain, partly because masks have become such a politically and culturally charged issue. However, even in the absence of a national mandate, state and local authorities might well broaden mandates in ways that ultimately mimic the impact of a national mandate."
Either way, the report said the evidence suggests that the economy "could benefit significantly from such moves, especially when compared with the alternative of a return to broader lockdowns."