Face Masks, Public Policies and Slowing the Spread of COVID-19: Evidence from Canada
We estimate the impact of mask mandates and other non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPI) on COVID-19 case growth in Canada, including regulations on businesses and gatherings, school closures, travel and self-isolation, and long-term care homes. We partially account for behavioral responses using Google mobility data. Our identification approach exploits variation in the timing of indoor face mask mandates staggered over two months in the 34 public health regions in Ontario, Canada's most populous province. We find that, in the first few weeks after implementation, mask mandates are associated with a reduction of 25 percent in the weekly number of new COVID-19 cases. Additional analysis with province-level data provides corroborating evidence. Counterfactual policy simulations suggest that mandating indoor masks nationwide in early July could have reduced the weekly number of new cases in Canada by 25 to 40 percent in mid-August, which translates into 700 to 1,100 fewer cases per week.
We thank Hiro Kasahara and Kevin Schnepel for excellent comments and suggestions. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.