Fed official: Economy would improve 'if we all wore a mask'

Fed official: Economy would improve 'if we all wore a mask'
© Greg Nash

A top Federal Reserve official said Friday that widespread mask-wearing is the best way to help the economy recover from the downturn driven by the coronavirus pandemic.

“If we all wore a mask, it would substantially mute the transmission of this disease and we would grow faster. We would have a lower unemployment rate. We'd grow faster. And would be far less likely to slow some of our reopenings,” said Robert Kaplan, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, in a Friday interview with Fox Business Network’s Maria BartiromoMaria Sara BartiromoGOP lawmaker: Democratic Party 'used to be more moderate' The IRS undermines the objective of the PPP Businesses plead for states to enforce mask mandates MORE.

“While monetary and fiscal policy have a key role to play, the primary economic policy from here is broad mask-wearing and good execution of these health care protocols. If we do that well, we'll grow faster,” Kaplan said.

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Kaplan, one of 10 Fed officials on the central bank’s policymaking committee this year, is the latest economist to call for the widespread adoption of mask-wearing.

A growing body of scientific evidence has shown masks to be highly effective in curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus. Face coverings help stop droplets and aerosols containing the virus from traveling through the air and infecting other individuals, reducing transmission by up to 85 percent, according to several dozen studies.

Economists have warned throughout the pandemic that the U.S. economy will not be able to recover until the threat of the virus is contained. The swift reopening of several states in May likely spurred a sharp rebound in hiring and consumer sales, but also a surge in coronavirus cases across much of the South and Sun Belt. 

Wearing masks not only helps reduce the spread of the virus, economists argue, but allows states and cities to limit the risks of reopening businesses and lifting restrictions.