Goldman Sachs' chief economist says if masks were required across the country, it could save the U.S. economy from a 5% loss.
"We find that face masks are associated with significantly better coronavirus outcomes," Hatzius said. "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 imply that a face mask mandate could potentially substitute for lockdowns that would otherwise subtract nearly 5% from GDP."
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the U.S. GDP totaled about $21.54 trillion in the First Quarter of 2020. According to Hatzius' analysis, not instituting a national mask requirement would cost the U.S. economy just over $1 trillion.
Several studies show that a mask or facial covering limits the wearer from spreading airborne droplets when speaking, sneezing or coughing. The coronavirus can live outside the body in these droplets for several hours and, in turn, infect other people — even before the person who spread the droplets has exhibited symptoms of COVID-19.
Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance that strongly recommended all Americans over the age of 2 wear masks in public, particularly in situations that would make social distancing impossible. However, it's stopped short of requiring masks.
The CDC also says those who have trouble breathing should not wear a mask if it puts the wearers' health at risk.
President Donald Trump has left individual states to issue mask requirements as they see fit, but has notably chafed at wearing face coverings during public appearances. He has also declined to require masks at his indoor rallies.
About one-third of states across the country currently require masks when in public. Forty-six states require masks in certain instances.
Presumptive Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden has said he would make masks a requirement for the remainder of the pandemic should he be elected president.