This One Thing Could Make 15 Percent More People Wear Masks

It could also help give the U.S. economy a boost, research from Goldman Sachs suggests.

Despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) recommendation to wear them to help slow the spread of coronavirus, face masks have become a divisive topic around the country. But with COVID-19 cases spiking again, health officials are urging more Americans to comply. Some states, like California and North Carolina, have even made them mandatory. Now, a new study is saying that a national face mask mandate could make 15 percent more people wear masks.

The study, conducted by Jan Hatzius, Daan Struyven, and Isabella Rosenberg, a team of economists at investment firm Goldman Sachs, reported a baseline estimate that determined a national face mask mandate would increase mask usage by 15 percent and cut the daily growth of new cases by nearly one percent. Currently, only 14 states have official mask requirements: New York, Connecticut, California, North Carolina, Nevada, Washington, Kansas, New Mexico, Massachusetts, Delaware, Illinois, Rhode Island, Maine, and Michigan.

A sign on the side of the road reads Mask or Face Covering Required in Public as you enter a village in Long Island, New York.

"We start by showing that a national mandate would likely increase face mask usage meaningfully, especially in states such as Florida and Texas where masks remain largely voluntary to date," the researchers wrote in their report.

According to the report, face mask usage varies greatly across the country. In the Northeast, where coronavirus numbers have improved dramatically in past months, usage is higher that it is in the Southwest, where the number of new cases has been steadily climbing. For example, a YouGov survey commissioned by the investment firm found that only about 40 percent of respondents in Arizona say that they "always" wear face masks in public, while nearly 80 percent in Massachusetts say they always do.

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Goldman Sachs says the mandate wouldn't only help from a national health perspective, but also an economic one. Investors are reportedly worried the spiking cases and the potential for "renewed broad lockdowns" will have negative effects on the GDP. The researchers say the country could enact a national face mask mandate instead of enacting another set of lockdowns—which already cost the United States a decrease of 17 percent from the GDP, according to the Goldman Sachs economists.

"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 researchers wrote.

According to their research, this national mandate would prevent the country from facing a five percent hit to the GDP, which would save the country $1 trillion, reported Forbes. However, even with the health benefits and economic benefits a national mask mandate may bring, is it likely one will be issued?

"This is uncertain, partly because masks have become such a politically and culturally charged issue," the researchers wrote. "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, our analysis suggests that the economy could benefit significantly from such moves, especially when compared with the alternative of a return to broader lockdowns." And for more on this topic, check out These Were the First States to Mandate Masks. Here's How They're Doing.

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