The Economic Impact of Wearing Face Masks During COVID-19

COVID-19 is having a resurgence.

As of Friday, July 3, data from the Covid Tracking Project showed that the 7-day average number of daily new US cases rose to 47,244, a 37% increase relative to 34,476 the previous Friday. The percent of cases testing positive rose to 7.5% from 6.4% one week earlier.

Texas and Florida are particularly hard hit. Texas reported a 47% increase in hospitalizations Monday compared to a week ago while Florida posted a record high of nearly 11,500 cases on July 4.

To reduce the spread of COVID-19 public health experts and the CDC recommend “that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings when around people outside of their household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain,”

Despite this, it is obvious that many individuals, particularly in Southern states are refusing to wear masks.

While driving to and from Tulsa, Oklahoma over the recent Father’s Day Weekend we were surprised that very few individuals were wearing masks in the convenience stores, gas stations and rest stops we entered. Similarly, my daughter related that during her recent drive from North Carolina through Tennessee, western Kentucky and southern Illinois to St. Louis almost no one was wearing masks indoors.

At the Trump rally in Tulsa perhaps 1 in 50 attendees were wearing masks inside the BOK Center.

What can we do to convince these non-mask-wearers (NWMs) to mask up?

A common reason cited for not wearing masks is that it represents an infringement on personal freedom. This concept prompted a tweet from the US Surgeon General 

Screen Shot 2020-07-07 at 7.09.19 AM

The infodemic of internet-based news, pseudoscience, and opinion that has sprung from the pandemic feeds into the failure to wear masks.

Kaiser Health News has pointed out that conflicting Covid-19 messages are creating confusion around public health and prevention. NewsGuard has identified 217 websites in Europe and the United States that publish “materially false” information about COVID-19.

Appeal to the Pocketbook

Perhaps an appeal to the pocketbook could convince the NMWs?

My financial advisor, Stuart Coats, sent out an email to clients over the July 4th weekend which included an excellent discussion which emphasized the economic and financial consequences of not wearing masks:

I can’t emphasize enough how the resurgence of COVID-19 in the US is a huge threat to our economic recovery. It only takes a single chart to demonstrate how inadequate our response has been. The chart below compares daily reported cases in the US (red line) to the European Union (blue line). Keep in mind the population of the EU is about one-third more than the US and the EU population density is three times that of the US. Our nation is richer than the EU and spends far more of GDP on healthcare and yet, while we were seeing about the same number of daily cases at the beginning of April, the EU proceeded to crush their new cases over about a month while we saw more of a plateau with downward drift over 2 months and then a massive spiking starting in the middle of June. As a result, many states are having to backpedal on their reopening plans and finally acknowledge the importance of wearing a mask.
EU vs US

A new study from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects that near-universal wearing of face masks could save 18,000 to 28,000 lives nationwide just by October 1. A recent report from Goldman Sachs suggests that a national mask mandate could partially substitute for renewed lockdowns in states with surging cases and prevent a 5% reduction in gross domestic product.

A recent survey done at the state level by data collection company Premise looked at the frequency of people always wearing a mask when going out. It found usage ranging from only 15% in Tennessee to 62% in Massachusetts. It is probably no coincidence that Tennessee is currently seeing a massive spike in cases to record-setting levels (now 10th worst state in the nation on a per capita basis) while Massachusetts which was once a national hotspot, now has a lower per capita rate of new cases than all but six other states.

It should be clear to all of us by now that wearing a mask is not only a neighborly thing to do, the life it could save could be your own or that of a relative or friend and wearing a mask is also good for jobs and for your portfolio value.

Stuart ends with a comparison of mask-wearing to the sacrifices our Founding Fathers made which I hope resonates with all liberty-loving Americans.

“If the signers of the Declaration were willing to mutually pledge to each other their lives, their fortune and their sacred honor, surely during a pandemic, we can manage the inconvenience of wearing a mask in public for the sake of our mutual health and economic well-being.”

Perhaps we can have the above sentence printed and displayed prominently in all public places where we can’t maintain social distancing. Will this appeal to economics overcome all the misinformation and misguidance that is out there?

Skeptically Yours,



15 thoughts on “The Economic Impact of Wearing Face Masks During COVID-19”

  1. I am all for personal freedom, but I am not stupid. Those who chose to be, are their own worst enemy and will probably get what they deserve. Wearing a mask is a minor inconvenience that pay big dividends. I bought a balaclava style one while at Whistling Straights. My granddaughter also made a nice red conventional mask for me, so one is always in my car and golf cart.
    Stay healthy. See you at SLU Care.

  2. I am a little bit confused by the argument by some that being required to wear a mask in stores or in public represents a significant and serious restriction of our personal liberty. Meanwhile, it seems since quite a while the government has been requiring you to cover your buttocks, your genitals and your breasts and these people raised little or no objections to those laws. While going about in public naked will probably result in no deaths, not wearing a mask may indeed cause the death of another. So why are they suddenly drawing the line about infringement of liberties with masks? I find it hypocritical to say the least. Clearly they have already accepted that the government may tell you what to wear. At least now the government has a defendable reason to do so with respect to masks.

  3. Ok ok I’ll wear my damn mask, but remember the general public receives incoming info daily on all aspects of COVID. (I will not recite them here) Many of these new reports conflict with what was reported yesterday. For months now we hear “facts” that dispute previous “facts”. So now the public’s response is “hell I don’t know what to believe”. Sure the authorities learn new hard data daily, but it is so often conflicted by their biases-including yours. For example, you were quick to point the low number of mask wearers at the Trump rally but fail to mention any problems with numerous protesters all over the country not wearing mask. There does seem to be some consensus regarding mask, so I will comply at least until I receive new findings that mask have no impact.

    • Bill,
      Thank you!
      I’m aware of the bewildering bombardment with COVID19news (which I called the infodemic.) That’s one reason I don’t post frequently and try to focus on the important, well-vetted information for my readers and patients.
      With respect to bias and criticizing NMWs at Trump rallys-
      Trump is our president, the leader who we look to during times of national crisis and to help this situation he should be spreading the advice of his COVID-19 doctors and scientists who are uniformly advising mask wearing in a situation like an indoor political rally. But prior to the Tulsa rally “President Donald Trump told Axios on Friday that he anticipated a “wild evening” at his Saturday campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, while recommending “people do what they want” when it comes to wearing a mask at the event — and even suggested it could be harmful to wear one.”
      I would criticize a President doing this who was Democratic, Independent or Republican.. Protestors are outside where spread is much less likely and most of them are wearing masks and they are not being directed by authorities at the top of our national government.

  4. Goldman Sachs, financial advisors as sources! Wash U gives projections without data to support(again). No good data is out there for or against masks. I cringe with all the public constantly touching their masks and and my personal items such as scanning groceries or touching produce etc… We have been wrong on much and I wonder the unanticipated vector masks themselves may be in spreading COVID or other infections.

    A concerned physician.

    • Maybe this will alleviated your concern-

      Price: I’ve heard so many misconceptions about cloth masks. Some people think that if you wear a mask for long periods of time you will trap and breathe in excess amounts of carbon dioxide, which could lead to brain damage. That’s just not true. A properly constructed mask provides more than enough ventilation. In fact, one way to test if your mask is well made is to try to blow out a candle through the mask from about 1 foot away. If you can’t do so, your mask might be too tightly woven. Other people feel that wearing a mask encourages people to touch their face and to loosen their adherence to other safety precautions like social distancing and hand washing. We’ve found the opposite. Wearing a mask reminds people to continue to be cautious. With a mask on, you actually touch your face less. People who experience skin irritation should ensure their mask has a layer of wicking fabric, like cotton, against the face, and everyone should change the mask if it becomes wet or dirty. Finally, it’s been suggested that mask-wearing may increase the concentration of viral particles around an infected person’s mouth and could increase the severity of the illness. While it’s true that some studies of health care workers have suggested that the viral dose is an important determinant of infection, it’s different for someone who is already infected. If you are sick, you already have the virus in your lungs; it’s not going to get any worse.

      • Forgive me… No FB didn’t take it down, I linked thru Facebook where a friend had posted it so his privacy settings may have intervened.
        Please see source link here: This shortened URL worked for me before I placed it here.

        This is the bio info on the author of the article above as shown at the bottom of the article:

        Denis G. Rancourt is a researcher at the Ontario Civil Liberties Association ( and is formerly a tenured professor at the University of Ottawa, Canada. This paper was originally published at Rancourt’s account on As of June 5, 2020, this paper was removed from his profile by its administrators at At Rancourt’s blog, he recounts the notification and responses he received from and states, “This is censorship of my scientific work like I have never experienced before.”

        The original April 2020 white paper in .pdf format is available here, complete with charts that have not been reprinted in the Reader print or web versions.

        (NB: where it says “here” in the paragraph just above, it links the same document as a .pdf that was published in April.)

        I do recognize that this author’s agenda comes from his position in Ontario Civil Liberties Assoc.

        I’d be interested in anyone’s comments pro/con.

  5. Wouldn’t the most likely culprit for the spikes be the huge numbers of people protesting? And they say the death rate is going down as the cases surge, but there would be a lag in time on related deaths, right. I mean, you don’t get Covid and die the next day. Also, do you think it is necessary to wear a mask out side while on our deck if visitors (max of 2) are seated 10-15 feet away?

  6. If you need an example of how to contain COVID then look no further than Canada and especially BC.
    Stunning differences.


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