Did Fox News decide to stage an intervention on behalf of Donald Trump? Over the last 24 hours, two of the hosts in their top-rated lineup have gone out of their way to rebut conservative skepticism over mask-wearing in public venues. No lesser MAGA personality than Sean Hannity launched his show last night to reinforce the notion that masks work to control the spread of COVID-19.
“Look, anecdotally, I was in the epicenter of this,” Hannity said, discussing how his grocery store’s customers have all masked up. “No one at my grocery store, thank God, got coronavirus,” he declared. “I think they work.” Did Hannity have a particular audience member in mind for this PSA? (Via Twitchy)
Hannity: I went to my grocery store every week. Guess what? They wore masks… I think they work. pic.twitter.com/SMwIgZVV5Y
— Acyn (@Acyn) June 30, 2020
If Hannity meant this message for one superfan in particular, perhaps so did Steve Doocy. Earlier this morning, Doocy suggested that MAGA should stand for “Masks are Great Again” and urged the Fox & Friends audience to put them on. “I don’t see any downside to the president wearing one,” Doocy tells Ronna McDaniel, who says that the president is trying to put together a balancing act on reopening. That’s when Doocy offers his “marketing advice” on rebranding MAGA:
Fox and Friends co-host Steve Doocy: "MAGA should now stand for 'Masks Are Great Again.'" pic.twitter.com/phM1pke5Hp
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) June 30, 2020
Maybe these two PSAs are just a coincidence, or perhaps just two hosts independently coming to the same conclusion that Trump’s disdain for masks might cost him the election. As AP noted yesterday, they wouldn’t be the first; Mitch McConnell has gotten much more vocal about his support for wearing masks in public, too. McConnell’s message that we should put “no stigma” on wearing masks seems aimed at the Oval Office as well as some of his allies on Capitol Hill, whose own mask-wearing practices are less than disciplined.
How does this relate to Trump’s re-election? For one thing, his support among seniors has reportedly dropped, and they are one of his core electoral bases. Seniors are higher risk for contracting the disease, and the more people mask up, the safer they are. With Trump suggesting that it’s not important to wear masks, it makes seniors less likely to get out of their houses, and might be adding resentment to the COVID-19 isolation they are experiencing.
More importantly, though, a broad usage of masks might prevent more economic damage. Goldman Sachs issued a note yesterday that claimed a national mask “mandate” could prevent a -5% GDP hit in 2020:
A federal face mask mandate would not only cut the daily growth rate of new confirmed cases of Covid-19, but could also save the U.S. economy from taking a 5% GDP hit in lieu of additional lockdowns, according to Goldman Sachs.
Jan Hatzius, Goldman’s chief economist, said his team investigated the link between face masks and Covid-19 health and economic outcomes and found that facial coverings are associated with sizable and statistically significant results.
“We find that face masks are associated with significantly better coronavirus outcomes,” Hatzius wrote in a note to clients. “Our baseline estimate is that a national mandate could raise the percentage of people who wear masks by 15 [percentage points] and cut the daily growth rate of confirmed cases by 1.0 [percentage point] to 0.6%.”
“These calculations imply that a face mask mandate could potentially substitute for lockdowns that would otherwise subtract nearly 5% from GDP,” the economist added.
That alone could make the difference between a second MAGA term or a Joe Biden presidency. As Doocy explicitly argued, a national push for mask-wearing might be the key to really reopening the economy and avoiding a second wave of lengthy lockdowns.
Will Trump get the message from Hannity and Doocy? Thus far he’s been resistant to wearing masks even while his own advisors keep pushing mask use publicly. If Hannity and Doocy can make masks cool on the Right, though, perhaps Trump will get out in front of that trend.