The evidence is clear: wearing a face mask saves lives. Goldman Sachs, one of the largest multinational investment banking firms in the world, recently released a report that suggests imposing a national face mask mandate would save thousands of lives – and save the U.S. domestic economy billions of dollars. The study argues that this would help the country avoid more state-wide shutdowns and prevent more people from ending up in the ICU.
We’ve known that wearing a face mask can help stop the spread of the coronavirus for months, but President Trump has yet to issue a national order for face coverings. Meanwhile, public officials are having trouble enforcing this policy on the ground. Some are calling on the local police, but others say wearing a mask is and should be a personal choice. So, how can we all do a better job of making sure everyone is wearing their mask?
The Goldman Sachs Study
Many states have still not made wearing a face mask mandatory when going out in public. Enforcement and compliance tend to vary by state, county, city, and even by the block.
We recently reported on the statistics behind who’s more likely to wear a face mask. Older people and those with underlying health conditions tend to be more cautious when leaving their homes. People that identify as liberal are more likely to take the pandemic seriously as well, according to the Pew Research Center.
Regardless, we know that not enough people are wearing face masks. We’ve all seen the videos and photos of large crowds gathering at beaches, bars, and restaurants.
The Goldman Sachs study is raising eyebrows in more ways than one. The economists behind the report looked at how wearing a mask can reduce the spread of the virus, which would then reduce mortality rates and help the U.S. economy recover as quickly as possible.
“Our baseline estimate is that a national mandate could raise the percentage of people who wear masks by 15% and cut the daily growth rate of confirmed cases by 1.0 to 0.6%.”
They make the case that these policies could replace state-wide lockdowns that would harm the economy. Without a national mandate for face masks, they believe U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will drop by 5% for 2020, which would deliver a shocking blow to the economy at home and abroad.
New Face Mask Policies Go into Effect
Several hard-hit states and counties are starting to change their ways for the better.
In light of recent outbreaks, Texas, New Jersey, California, and parts of Arizona have recently made face masks mandatory when going out in public.
But it’s not clear how these states will enforce this policy.
Governors are calling on local police departments to help with enforcement, but that has raised a slew of civil rights concerns. For one, the country is still in the middle of a contentious argument over police brutality and systemic racism. Sending cops out to patrol the streets for face masks could be a recipe for disaster, especially among communities of color.
The police have also made it clear that they do not plan to help with enforcement. Police sheriffs across the country have said publicly that they do not have the resources or staff to enforce this policy on the ground. Some have also said that imposing such a requirement would be a violation of the individual’s civil rights, even though many prosecutors have said the police and the state have the authority to arrest or fine individuals if they are deemed a threat to public safety.
This debate is on full display in California.
Gov. Gavin Newsom recently said he would withhold up to $2.5 billion in aid to local police departments if they refuse to enforce the mask rule and other pandemic-related mandates. The state clearly has no interest in spending money on groups that fail to maintain public safety. Gov. Newsom went on to say, “If they choose to not do that, we will redirect those dollars to communities that are.”
Is This the Right Approach?
Health experts largely agree that threatening to arrest or fine individuals is not the best way to get them to comply with the mask policy. They believe it’s better to educate the public regarding the risks of not wearing a face covering, so will comply voluntarily. That could mean spending more money on messaging, such as TV commercials, ads, public posters, banners, and even celebrity PSAs.
Enforcement often falls on service workers and retail assistants. They are the ones that need to tell customers to wear their masks when shopping or running errands. Many of these workers have faced “instances of hostility and violence” from customers who refused to wear masks, according to the Retail Industry Leaders Association.
Others have tried shaming people that don’t wear a mask. They may call them out in public or take a video or photo of them until they put on a mask. It may even be as simple as making eye contact with a stranger or crossing the street when you see someone coming that’s not wearing a mask.
We’re not going to start arresting or fining people in mass for not wearing masks any time soon. We can’t send them to jail, and many people are struggling financially amid the pandemic, so fines would likely do more harm than good.
Until a vaccine becomes available, we all have to rely on each other to comply with this policy. Encourage other people to wear masks and have them do the same for others, so we can all pass it on.