Masks: Dr. Fauci Confirms My Hypothesis
According to a Wall Street Journal story of June 29 (“Masks Could Help Stop Coronavirus. So Why Are They Still Controversial?”), Dr. Anthony Fauci confirmed a hypothesis I proposed in an Econlog post of the same day: the long-lasting detrimental advice by the US government against ordinary people wearing masks was motivated by their shortage. This shortage was itself created by the governments’ own price-controls and their efforts to commandeer the consequently insufficient quantity supplied. The WSJ writes:
White House adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said this month that he initially dismissed masks because medical workers were facing a shortage in supplies.
The link in the quote above points to a June 16 WSJ story that does not in fact mention anything like that—but the story might have been modified (as happens often) and I missed a previous version.
One example of the (obvious) usefulness of masks given by the Wall Street Journal:
In Asia, the majority of people voluntarily use face coverings and it is mainly Western expatriates who are reluctant to adopt them, said Prof. Yuen Kwok-Yung, a leading coronavirus expert who advises the Hong Kong government.
Hong Kong, with 7.5 million residents, is one of the most densely populated places on earth, but recorded only six deaths from Covid-19 despite having no lockdown and receiving nearly 350,000, [sic] travelers a day from abroad until authorities started reducing cross-border travel on January 30. Around half of the arrivals were from mainland China, where the virus originated.
The key secret of Hong Kong’s success, Prof. Yuen said, is that the mask compliance rate during morning rush hour is 97%.
Export controls by foreign governments (remember that the US government also restricted exports) have worsened the problem created by price controls and the Defense Production Act. As usual, more government dirigisme does not improve production and allocation.