By: Nistha Lohani
Two days ago, I was walking out of my apartment in New York City to go to the grocery store and buy ingredients for dinner. I grabbed my purse and thought to myself, “am I forgetting anything?” I double checked for my keys, wallet, phone, and even my chapstick and proceeded to walk out of my apartment, forgetting one simple yet crucial part of my everyday life: my face mask.
Eight months into the global pandemic, face masks have become the “new normal” in our society. Researchers have released extensive reports on the public health benefits of mask wearing: the piece of cloth can prevent the spread of Covid-19 by blocking the spread of respiratory droplets through coughs, sneezes, or even regular speech and lowering transmission rates. They stress that the more people wearing masks, the better it is for society, but for the naysayers who are still unconvinced by this public health argument, maybe a new economic discussion will be more compelling.
An analysis by Goldman Sachs found that a national mask mandate could save the economy from a 5% hit to GDP — equivalent to preventing a loss of about $1 trillion. This would cause large-scale improvements for large businesses and corporations as well as individual households. When individuals refuse to wear a mask, they fail to recognize the devastating macroeconomic impacts: a decrease in GDP means businesses sell fewer goods and services offered at a higher price, individuals lose their jobs, consumers hold onto their savings and limit their spending, and a vicious cycle of economic downturn ensues. According to CBS, if everyone wore masks to prevent this 5% loss in GDP, each American could increase their savings by $3,000.
If you don’t find this argument convincing enough, consider the price of treatment for Covid-19. Those who contract the virus and are uninsured can face hospital bills between $10,000 to $20,000, potentially even higher, and a Kaiser analysis found that on average individuals pay at least $1,300 out of pocket. Wearing a mask is an easy and effective way to protect yourself and others from having to incur these immense economic costs.
With the upcoming election, the decision to wear a mask has become more political than health related. However, maybe the economic rationale will persuade those refusing a face covering to do their part for the betterment of society. Maybe they will realize that wearing a mask not only saves lives, but it saves money too.