SCIENCE SUPPORTS A MASK MANDATE
Updated: May 18, 2021
Open Letter To Mayor Tenaken and the Sioux Falls City Council
November 2, 2020
Sioux Falls City Council
City of Sioux Falls
224 W 9th St
Sioux Falls, SD 57104
I write to you as a constituent and former public servant to express my strong support for a [CITYWIDE MASK MANDATE TO HELP CURB THE SPREAD OF COVID-19.] It is my understanding that this initiative will be proposed by [COUNCIL MEMBER CURT SOEHL] at the NOVEMBER 3RD MEETING OF THE SIOUX FALLS CITY COUNCIL .
As I am sure you are aware, our community is among the worst infected parts of the country, with South Dakota currently ranked, according to the Wall Street Journal, as the WORST in terms of new COVID-19 cases and test positivity.
The dramatic rise in local cases highlights the continued importance our community must place on [FOLLOWING THE ADVICE OF OUR PUBLIC HEALTH PROFESSIONALS TO PROTECT ONE ANOTHER FROM A VIRUS FOR WHICH THERE IS NO VACCINE AND NO CURE.]
Science has proven that masks are effective in slowing the transmission of COVID-19. In communities where mask adoption has been mandated or voluntarily embraced, statistics show a reduction in death and infection.
Recent studies in Health Affairs, The Lancet, and other medical journals, compared the COVID-19 growth rate before and after mask mandates in various states. They show that mask mandates led to a slowdown in daily COVID-19 growth rate over time. If you continue to be skeptical of this point, I highly suggest reviewing the following October 30th New York Times article (and animated infographic) entitled, ‘Mask Work. Really. We’ll Show you how.’
If you are have already conferred with medical experts, and continue to be unpersuaded, I urge you to consult with an accredited economist on the utility of a mask mandate for Sioux Falls.
My guess is they will agree a decentralized approach to mitigating this public health disaster simply won't work. This is because it falls victim to a classic economic conundrum known as the 'free-rider problem.' Here is why: those who choose not to wear masks are incurring a benefit from those who do while offering nothing in return -- except possibly perpetuating community spread of COVID-19.
Dr. Heath Henderson, a Drake University Economics Professor, made this same argument in favor of a mask mandate, to the Des Moines Register, last summer:
"To understand this, forget COVID-19 for the moment and focus on a situation that is more familiar: a group project. To be concrete, imagine that you are taking a class — perhaps economics — and that you and two others need to write a paper for it.
Assuming everybody in the group will receive the same grade, you must decide whether or not to improve the quality of the paper by contributing your effort. Specifically, if you do contribute your effort, you incur a cost of two units, but provide one unit of benefit to everybody in the group, including yourself. (We don’t need to get into what a “unit” of cost or benefit is here.)
If you are only weighing your own costs and benefits, it clearly doesn’t make sense to contribute any effort, as the costs outweigh the benefits. If everybody in the group follows their own self-interest, your group ends up putting in no effort into the project, which means you fail.
Interestingly, if everybody instead sets aside their narrow self-interest and contributes effort to the paper, you will actually be better off personally. That is, you will incur two units of cost for your effort, but receive three units of benefit (recall that there are three group members). While you prefer the better grade that accompanies the increased effort, your group won’t be able to realize this situation if everybody narrowly follows their own interests."
Unfortunately, lack of mask usage in our community has become a very deadly example of this point. Indeed, as Dr. Henderson explains, if we were to all set aside our narrow self interests and wears masks, Sioux Falls would likely see sizable reductions in infections, a rebound in economic activity, and perhaps a return to something resembling our normal lives.
This includes avoiding a potential shutdown and the ensuing economic consequences as the pandemic worsens. Goldman Sachs Research recently published a report on this very topic entitled, 'Face-masks and GDP'. The report highlights mask mandates as a powerful tool that can be used to improve economic output by reducing the length of a shutdown and, in some cases, avoid it entirely. I would suggest reading it.
I understand for some members of the council, Paul, this is necessarily a political decision. If that is the case, I would argue that it should be easy for you to vote 'yes.' Here is why: there is strong evidence pointing to majority support for a mask mandate. In fact, there is an actual survey that was conducted on the topic by our own South Dakota State University:
I would highlight a few points that I hope you will consider: One, this survey was conducted BEFORE South Dakota became the worst place for COVID-19 on the continent. Two, it was a statewide survey which would imply that support for a mandate in Sioux Falls is greater. Three, 43% strongly support while only 27% strongly oppose-- these percentages are significant and should be viewed with great caution. Four, [SUPPORT FOR THE MANDATE WILL BECOME MORE EXTREME AS THE PANDEMIC WORSENS.]
Your town is counting on you.
Finally, I understand that you may be struggling with this decision. There may be powerful forces in our community pushing you to vote against this measure. You may have aspirations for a career in Pierre or even Washington DC. You may even think COVID-19 is a hoax. None of this matters. You were elected in good faith to a none-partisan position in the City Government of Sioux Falls to serve and protect the interests of our town.
The decision you make on Tuesday could be critical to your future political endeavors. Especially, if our town decides it wants those [8456 VOTES BACK.] This shouldn't even be a close call.
Thank you again for your consideration of this very obvious public health measure. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can provide you with any additional information.
Adam P. Weiland
Former Senior Advisor
US Senator Tim Johnson
If you feel the same way please contact your City Council. You can access their contact information here:
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