This may be the most effective lockdown alternative

Suppressing COVID-19’s growth curve and mitigating economic downturn aren’t actually at odds with one another—as demonstrated by New York’s dwindling cases. 

The nations that were able to concurrently avoid indefinite commercial shutdowns and rising coronavirus growth rates are all linked by mask mandates and contact tracing. 

According to a new report highlighting the economic merits of face masks,  published by Goldman Sachs, a national mask sanction could reduce US GDP losses by 5%.

Jan Hatzius,  the chief economist at Goldman Sachs who lead the research,  derived his findings from data of more than 20 countries and 20 US states. Between January and April, commercial curfews reduced the US’s gross domestic product by 17%.

“The issue that has preoccupied markets in recent weeks, is that we’ve seen a significant deterioration in the virus numbers. That has raised fears that we may need to go back to the lockdowns that we saw back in March and April,” Hatzius explained. “We know that this is very economically damaging. One alternative to these lockdowns is to increase the use of face masks. Face masks are very effective in reducing virus spread.”

In the analysis, Hatzius accounted for mask policies, implementation dates, shutdown easing, and mask usage rates. 

Public opinion polls conducted by YouGov additionally allowed Hatzius to determine how populations interacted with coronavirus countermeasures. States hit the hardest by rising COVID-19 hospitalizations reliably housed communities who confessed to not wearing masks that often in public settings. 

The investment bank estimates that a national mask policy would result in a 25-percentage-point increase in mask usage in states that do not currently have a mask policy. And in places that already require masks, the increase would hover around 5%.

New data from the journal Physics of Fluids from AIP Publishing, determined that the most effective homemade face masks are those made with tightly woven fabric because they provide a good seal along the edges. The same analysis concluded bandanas and handkerchiefs to be virtually ineffective. 

N95 masks offer protection from SARS-CoV-2 virions, but only if worn properly. These masks are also relatively hard to get a hold of. 

Coronavirus droplets in saliva can travel as much as 18 feet as quickly as five seconds when an unmasked person coughs and coronavirus particles are an average 0.1 micrometers in diameter. 

In aerosols, these particles remain active for roughly three hours. Disposable medical masks have been studied to block between 96 and 99% of viral debris. 

“All of the major health agencies have now issued recommendations for the general public to use some sort of face covering, but there are no clear guidelines on the types of material or designs that should be used,” said Siddhartha Verma, PhD, the study’s lead author who also serves as assistant professor in the department of ocean and mechanical engineering at Florida Atlantic University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science.

“While there are a few prior studies on the effectiveness of medical-grade equipment, we don’t have a lot of information about the cloth-based coverings that are most accessible to us at present, given the need to reserve medical-grade supplies for healthcare workers.”