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Weighing the Cost of the Pandemic - Knowing what we know now, how much damage did COVID-19 cause in the United States?

Richard Bruns, Nikki Teran
Date posted:
April 21, 2022
Publication type:
Institute for Progress
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In October 2020, David Cutler and Lawrence H. Summers published a brief article in JAMA Viewpoint estimating that COVID-19 would cost the United States $16 trillion dollars, when combining economic damages and monetized health and life loss. This figure has been extensively cited and used in policy discussions. In this article, we update their estimate, using facts about the disease and its costs to society that have become known since their paper was published. 

We find that the total harms of COVID-19 to the U.S. are still about $16 trillion (with a range of $10 trillion and $22 trillion) but the components of harm are significantly different than those estimated by Cutler & Summers. The pandemic caused less economic damage than they projected, but more mental health damage.



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