The COVID-19 Pandemic and the $16 Trillion Virus | Infectious Diseases | JAMA | JAMA Network
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Viewpoint
October 12, 2020

The COVID-19 Pandemic and the $16 Trillion Virus

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Economics, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • 2Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge, Massachusetts
JAMA. 2020;324(15):1495-1496. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.19759
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The SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) pandemic is the greatest threat to prosperity and well-being the US has encountered since the Great Depression. This Viewpoint aggregates mortality, morbidity, mental health conditions, and direct economic losses to estimate the total cost of the pandemic in the US on the optimistic assumption that it will be substantially contained by the fall of 2021. These costs far exceed those associated with conventional recessions and the Iraq War, and are similar to those associated with global climate change. However, increased investment in testing and contact tracing could have economic benefits that are at least 30 times greater than the estimated costs of the investment in these approaches.

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