10/18 News Flash 7: The COVID-19 Pandemic and the $16 Trillion Virus

Graphic by Tai Michaels.

Paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year on car insurance can be frustrating –– that is, until you find yourself stranded with a smoking engine and your $20,000 repair is fully covered. Unfortunately, the United States was behind on its pandemic prevention premiums –– and it shows. COVID-19 came crashing through the window, leaving a hefty 16-trillion-dollar bill for the country to pay off on its own.

That is what Drs. Cutler and Summers’ latest publication claims. In their article, featured in the JAMA, they estimate that the total monetary impact of the virus has 11 figures, coming down to an average cost of $200,000 for a family of four. Their calculation considered not only decreased revenues, but also the increase in deaths, the long-term effects of the disease, and the mental health impacts of social distancing and loss of loved ones to the virus.

This highlights the importance of early diagnosis: for every dollar spent on testing and contact tracing, they estimate $30 are saved. This shows that the United States must emphasize testing and prevention even after this pandemic so that, in the event of a future crisis, the country will be more appropriately covered.