Face masks are an economic issue says Goldman Sachs

The investment bank's chief economist says their use can make a big difference to economic recovery compared to further lockdowns

Face masks are an economic issue says Goldman Sachs
Steve Randall

Toronto is introducing a temporary bylaw requiring the wearing of face masks in enclosed public settings from July 7 to limit the rise in COVID-19 infections.

But as well as the health benefits to the use of face coverings, a report released this week by Goldman Sachs Investment Research suggests there is a significant advantage for economic recovery too.

While Toronto’s mandate is specific and limited to the City’s jurisdiction, Goldman’s chief economist and his team believe that national mandates on face mask use are the most effective from an economic point of view.

Using the US as the basis for its research, the team concluded that making face masks mandatory across the country would slow the daily rate of new virus infections from 1.6% to 0.6%.

Achieving the same reduction in infections through additional lockdown measures would mean a 5% reduction in GDP – the equivalent of U$1 trillion.

“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 states.

The US has mixed rules on the wearing of face masks with the highest level of usage in the Northeast, where virus outbreaks saw significant levels. It has become a political issue with presidential candidate Joe Biden saying he would make them mandatory while President Trump has opposed them, but recently appears to have softened his view.

Canada has a national recommendation for wearing face masks in certain settings but other jurisdictions could follow Toronto’s example of a mandate, which will run until at least the end of September. Ottawa is expected to state its position on face masks this week.