Commission finds COVID pandemic caused $18 trillion in economic damage to US

A new report by the Heritage Foundation’s Nonpartisan Commission on China and COVID-19 found that the COVID pandemic caused $18 trillion in economic losses to the U.S. and placed blame for the outbreak on the Chinese government.

FOX Business exclusively viewed an advance copy of the report, which estimated that as of December 2023, the pandemic’s total economic cost in the U.S. topped $18 trillion after taking into account several ways in which the pandemic affected the economy.

That figure includes more than $8.6 trillion caused by excess deaths; more than $1.825 trillion in lost income; $6 trillion due to chronic conditions such as “long COVID”; and mental health losses of $1 trillion and educational losses of $435 billion pushed the total above $18 trillion.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacted a staggering toll on the United States, both in human lives and in economic terms. The total estimated cost of $18.007 trillion is a stark reminder of the profound impact this global health crisis has had on the nation,” the commission wrote. “By understanding and acknowledging these costs, we can lay the groundwork for holding accountable those whose negligence or overt actions exacerbated the pandemic’s severity.”

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COVID Testing

The Heritage Foundation’s Nonpartisan Commission on China and COVID-19 found that the pandemic’s economic toll on the U.S. totaled more than $18 trillion. (Reuters/Brendan McDermid/File)

The report noted there were 1,476,457 excess deaths in the U.S. from 2020 to 2022 during the height of the pandemic. 

In terms of lost economic output, real gross domestic product in that period was 2.5% below what was projected in early 2020 before the pandemic began.

It added that the pandemic was “the most disruptive and costly event of the 21st century” and that the worldwide excess deaths from COVID were estimated to be 28 million, according to an analysis by The Economist.

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A nurse works outside a negative pressure room in the Covid-19 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego, Calif., on Jan. 28, 2021.

The report noted there were nearly 1,476,457 excess deaths in the U.S. from 2020 to 2022, which contributed $8.6 trillion to the economic toll. (Bing Guan/Bloomberg via Getty Images/File)

Regarding the origins of COVID, the commission found that it “very likely stemmed from a research-related incident in Wuhan, China.”

“Although it remains theoretically possible that COVID-19 emerged via zoonosis in the wild or spillover in a wet market (spillover is a virus originating in animals before it passes to humans), there is no evidentiary basis for either of these hypotheses despite extensive testing over four years,” the commission wrote.

The report also included a timeline of the Chinese government’s actions as part of a “systematic cover-up” of the origins of COVID that began, at the latest, in December 2019, as well as its failure to take steps to contain the virus within its borders.

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COVID grocery store

The COVID pandemic caused substantial disruptions to daily life and economy. (Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images/File)

Commissioners provided recommendations for Congress to consider as it looks to hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable for its role in the COVID pandemic, which include:

  • Establish a bipartisan national COVID commission to conduct “a review of China’s negligence and cover-up as well as an evaluation of domestic policies that were implemented” in response to the pandemic.
  • Create a bipartisan reparations or compensation task force to cover claims against the Chinese government.
  • Facilitate the filing of civil claims against the People’s Republic of China to allow civilians harmed by COVID to receive compensation by amending the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act with a provision letting civilians sue China for COVID claims.
  • Decouple U.S. government and commercial supply chains from Chinese state-backed companies.
  • Audit all U.S. government funding for biomedical research and related research activities in China.

The commission also provided recommendations for the president to take action on. Those include making it a diplomatic priority for China to allow an unfettered scientific and forensic investigation into COVID’s origins, and imposing economic sanctions on Chinese officials and entities who were complicit in or supported the “distortion and concealment” of information related to the COVID pandemic.

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“In the absence of self-accountability by China, and in view of its obstructionist role in international institutions, the Commission believes that only holding the Chinese government accountable and liable for its negligence and malfeasance can provide both China’s government and other governments with the incentives and impetus to act differently in the future,” the commissioners wrote.

The report said that it’s up to the U.S. government to take action on its recommendations and expressed hope that other governments will take inspiration from the commission’s work, adding, “Better to take bold action now than to ask ourselves why we didn’t do more if an even deadlier pandemic emerges in the future.”

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