Want more jobs? Wear a mask, says Fed's Kaplan

FILE PHOTO: A poll deputy wears gloves and a mask as a preventive measure against the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), during the Democratic presidential primary election in Miami, Florida, U.S. March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Maria Alejandra Cardona

(Reuters) - Widespread use of face masks is the single biggest factor that could help restore the U.S. economy, bringing more people back to work and allowing schools to open, Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Robert Kaplan said on Monday.

“If we all wore masks, I think that’s probably the most important thing we can do right now to make sure that rebound is faster, not slowing,” Kaplan told the National Press Club in a virtual event, noting the economy has slowed since the virus has resurged across the United States in recent weeks.

“Many small businesses that might have made it without the resurgence in the virus will not make it,” he said.

That a U.S. central banker’s main message on the economic outlook should be a plea for using a simple tool to slow infections underscores one challenge of this crisis, one that Kaplan and other Fed policymakers have pointed to from the beginning: The economy can’t return to health unless the virus can be contained.

Kaplan did say the Fed stands ready to do more, and also called for more money from lawmakers to support the unemployed and state and local governments that have begun to lay off staff amid a steep drop in tax revenue.

But there would be less need for fiscal and monetary policy support if people wore masks, he said.

“There is a direct connection between growing faster and following these protocols,” Kaplan said.

Reporting by Ann Saphir; Editing by Chris Reese and Leslie Adler