Maria Milosh, Marcus Painter, Konstantin Sonin, David Van Dijcke, Austin L. Wright, 23 December 2020

As the use of face masks has been shown to effectively diminish the spread of COVID-19 without hampering economic activity, it should be among the least controversial public policy responses to the pandemic. This column shows, however, that mask usage is strongly associated with political partisanship in the US. Using various research designs, it finds that localities which voted for Trump in 2016 are significantly less likely to wear masks, even if mask wearing is mandated. Leadership is shown to matter as well – tweets with positive sentiment towards masks surged after Trump wore a mask in public the first time. 

Alexander Karaivanov, Shih En Lu, Hitoshi Shigeoka, 09 October 2020

The mandatory wearing of face masks remains a contentious policy issue during the COVID-19 pandemic. This column evaluates the impact of mask mandates on the spread of COVID-19 in Canada, using the different timings that masks were mandated across the 34 health districts of the province of Ontario. Mask mandates are associated with a 25% or larger weekly reduction in new COVID-19 cases in July and August, relative to the absence of mandates. Requiring indoor masks nationwide in early July could have reduced new COVID-19 cases in Canada by 25%–40% in mid-August, which translates into between 700 and 1,100 fewer cases per week.

Victor Chernozhukov, Hiroyuki Kasahara, Paul Schrimpf, 15 July 2020

Faced with COVID-19, people rationally and voluntarily respond to information on risks, making it difficult to distinguish the effect of containment policies from that of voluntary behavioural responses. This column examines the effect of mandatory mask policies on COVID-19 cases and deaths in the US. If the US had on 1 April 2020 universally mandated that employees of public-facing businesses use masks, there could have been nearly 40% fewer deaths by the start of June. Containment policies had a large impact on the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths, directly by reducing transmission rates and indirectly by constraining people’s behaviour, and account for roughly half the observed change in the growth rates of cases and deaths.

Timo Mitze, Reinhold Kosfeld, Johannes Rode, Klaus Wälde, 22 June 2020

Confronted with a novel, aggressive coronavirus, Germany implemented measures to reduce its spread since March 2020. Requiring people to wear face masks in public places has, however, been a subject of controversy and isolating the effect of mask-wearing on the spread of COVID-19 is not simple. This column looks at the town of Jena and other German regions that introduced face masks before the rest of the country to see whether the requirement makes a difference in the number of new COVID-19 cases. Requiring face masks to be worn decreases the growth rate of COVID-19 cases by about 40% in Germany.

Xiaohui Chen, Ziyi Qiu, 13 May 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a vast spectrum of unprecedented government interventions. This column discusses the impact of various interventions on COVID-19 transmission dynamics and the associated economic consequences. Examining the variation in government policies, it finds that policies such as lockdown, school closure, centralised quarantine and mask wearing are effective in controlling the virus transmission. A series of scenario analyses suggest that countries may avoid lockdown by imposing school closures, mask wearing and centralised quarantine simultaneously to reach similar COVID-19 infection mitigation outcomes.

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