by Barbara Joy Cooley
How economically valuable is a face mask mandate in terms of reducing the need for broad lockdowns with their well-documented negative effects on GDP (Gross Domestic Product)? That was one of three questions that the people at Goldman Sachs recently answered, using their analytical tools.(1) You can read the nitty gritty details of how they conducted their analysis in their recent publication on the subject, but here is the bottom line from Goldman Sachs:
“Thus, 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 the GDP.” How serious is a 5% drop in the GDP? That’s about how much the GDP fell in the first quarter of 2020 – the worst quarterly decline since 2008, during a deep recession. Our economy cannot sustain continued declines such as this.
“Our analysis suggests that the economic benefit from a face mask mandate and increased face mask usage could be sizable,” the Goldman Sachs report concludes. Whether there were a national face mask mandate or, in the absence of that, local and state governments would issue mandates on such a wide scale that it would “mimic the impact of a national mandate,” the Goldman Sachs analysts say, “Either way, our analysis suggests that the economy could benefit significantly from such moves, especially when compared with the alternative of a return to broader lockdowns.”
Two of our Sanibel city council members – Mick Denham and Holly Smith — have now voted twice for a mask mandate; council member Richard Johnson joined them in voting for a mask mandate on June 30. By taking this action, these three council members have saved lives and helped to save the area’s economy. They’ve shown leadership, courage, and wisdom in taking this action.
Mayor Kevin Ruane and council member Jason Maughan have not supported the Sanibel mask mandate (although the mayor has said that he will abide by it). They think that mask wearing should be voluntary. The conservative Goldman Sachs numbers indicate that without a mask mandate, COVID-19 cases grow by 17.3% per week; with a mask mandate, they grow by only 7.3% per week. If a mask mandate is combined with a ban on large public gatherings, the transmission rate can be driven almost to the ground.
Punta Gorda’s city council voted unanimously for a mask mandate. Other city councils and county commissions in southwest Florida should follow Sanibel’s and Punta Gorda’s example. Then maybe we would have a shot at saving our local economy. Let’s not throw away our shot.
Our economy cannot sustain renewed lockdowns and loss of employee health, our hospitals cannot sustain the ongoing surge in number of COVID-19 patients, and health care professionals are burning out. Still, some selfishly claim that they have a right to not wear a mask, and to be mandated to wear one is a violation of the Constitution. The city attorney refuted that argument on at the June 30 council meeting.
Dr. Anthony Fauci recently said, “I don’t know how to explain to you that you should care for other people.” If everyone would wear masks for several weeks, we could get this pandemic under control. Do it for others. Do it for yourself. Do it for the economy. Do it for the world. Just wear the darn mask.
(1) Goldman Sachs Research: Face Masks and GDP, 29 Jun 2020.