If Americans don’t believe public health officials or medical researchers, perhaps they’ll believe Wall Street. A new analysis released by the investment bank Goldman Sachs this week argues that implementing a national mask-wearing mandate is “worth” about 5 percent of US gross domestic product (GDP). Performing a regression analysis of reported masking behavior among residents of states with state-level mandates, as well as infection rates following the mandate implementation, Goldman’s analysts found that mask mandates result in a 25 percent reduction in the growth rate of infections, as well as a decline in COVID fatalities.
The analysis estimates that implementing a national mandate would increase the percentage of people who wear masks by 15 percentage points, with larger impact in states that currently have low levels of mask compliance. Goldman Sachs had previously constructed an “effective lockdown index”, estimating that the coronavirus pandemic subtracted 17 percent from US GDP between January and April.
Given spikes in COVID infections across Sun Belt states, the analysis found that avoiding potential lockdowns by instead implementing a mask mandate could avoid a further 5 percent decrease in GDP. Both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend that the general public wear masks, and a growing body of scientific research indicates that masking significantly reduces the spread of COVID.
Now the bankers have weighed in. We don’t know who still needs to hear this, but please wear a mask when you’re out and about this holiday weekend. Please.
As the nation headed into the 4th of July weekend, the number of new COVID cases hit a string of daily highs, reaching a record high of more than 55,000 on Thursday. States across the South and Sunbelt, especially those that lifted stay-at-home orders early, saw the worst spikes.
Florida broke a new record with more than 10,000 cases on Thursday, and Georgia also experienced a new daily high. Hospitalizations continued to rise sharply in several states as well. Many hospitals reported a shift in COVID admissions toward younger, otherwise healthy adults, reports borne out by the lower death rate than that experienced in the initial surge of cases in the Northeast. (Advances in the management of severely ill COVID patients have also brought death rates down.)
In a Senate hearing on Tuesday, top White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said that the US was “not in total control” of the pandemic, and predicted that daily new case counts could top 100,000 if more stringent measures are not taken.
California, Florida, and other states took steps to roll back reopening efforts, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott abruptly reversed direction and ordered a statewide mask mandate. Welcome news, but likely too late to prevent cities like Houston from exceeding available ICU capacity. Cases in the city have skyrocketed across the past month, with its positive test rate hitting 20 percent yesterday; its cancer and children’s hospitals began admitting COVID-positive adults to provide added capacity.
With celebrations scheduled across the nation this weekend, including another large event today at Mount Rushmore to be attended by President Trump, where masking and social distancing will be optional, it seems certain that we will continue to reap the whirlwind of careless behavior and hasty reopening for the rest of this month and beyond.
And looming in just six weeks—students return to schools and colleges.
US coronavirus update: 2.7M cases; 130K deaths; 33.5M tests conducted.
The June unemployment rate of 11.1 percent, down from a peak of 14.7 percent in April, reflects a continuing, cautious economic recovery. What those numbers don’t show is an increase in employment driven disproportionately by part-time work and industries that are vulnerable to another shutdown.
According to the Labor Department’s survey of American households, many of those workers would work full-time if they could and are working part-time only because of poor economic conditions. The number of people pushed into part-time work has more than doubled since February. Meanwhile, the number of people who work part-time by choice is still down by 23 percent.
The unemployment rate isn’t wrong: Part-time work is still work. However, those jobs have already proved to be vulnerable to a slowing economy. Anyone pushed into part-time work by the coronavirus’s initial shock to the economy may be even more vulnerable in the case of future shutdowns. And part-time workers may not have access to benefits such as health insurance that are available to full-time workers.
The industries that bounced back in May and June are also at the mercy of future shutdowns as coronavirus cases surge across the Sun Belt. For instance, unemployment in leisure and hospitality is still very high but dropped by 10 percentage points from April’s staggering 40 percent. Retail and wholesale unemployment dropped by a third. In contrast, finance, government and professional services have had a slow start to recovery. Unemployment in the information industry actually increased from May to June.
If the greatest gains in employment are in industries that suffered most in the early stages of the pandemic, those gains are vulnerable to future waves of shutdowns. Meanwhile, less-volatile industries may continue to be slow to bounce back. A Congressional Budget Office report predicted that the unemployment rate is expected to stay above its pre-pandemic levels through the end of 2030.
Counties populated by larger numbers of people of color tend to have more coronavirus cases than those with higher shares of white people.
What we’re watching: As the outbreak worsens throughout the South and the West, caseloads are growing fastest in counties with large communities of color.
The big picture: The southern and southwestern parts of the U.S. — the new epicenters of the outbreak — have higher Black and Latino or Hispanic populations to begin with.
Between the lines: These inequities stem from pre-existing racial disparities throughout society, and have been exacerbated by the U.S. coronavirus response.
The bottom line: Until we plug the huge holes in the American coronavirus response — like inadequate testing and contact tracing and a lack of protection for essential workers — people of color will continue to bear the brunt of the pandemic.
Although California appeared to be on track in March to become a coronavirus disaster, the state managed to turn things around — only to find cases skyrocketing three months later.
Between the lines: It’s obvious what caused the problem in states like Arizona, Texas and Florida, where the warnings of public health officials were largely disregarded. But in California, there’s not just one clear-cut explanation, the MIT Technology Review reports.
Yes, but: California avoided becoming a hotspot early on, but cases had been steadily rising long before they began rapidly spiking, as my colleagues Andrew Witherspoon and Sam Baker reported.
Hospitals will lose $323.1 billion this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report from the American Hospital Association.
The total includes $120.5 billion in financial losses the association predicts hospitals will see from July through December on top of $202.6 billion in losses they estimated between March and June. The losses are in large part due to lower patient volumes.
“While potentially catastrophic, these projected losses still may underrepresent the full financial losses hospitals will face in 2020, as the analysis does not account for currently increasing case rates in certain states, or potential subsequent surges of the pandemic occurring later this year,” the AHA said.
Hospitals and health systems are reporting an average decline of 19.5 percent in inpatient volume and 34.5 percent in outpatient volume when compared to baseline levels from last year. Most hospitals don’t expect to return to last year’s levels in 2020.
Read the full report here.