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COVID testing in Rome. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP via Getty Images

Government spending on testing and contact tracing pays for itself more than 30 times over, according to a new paper published by the American Medical Association.

What they found: Harvard economists David Cutler and Lawrence Summers (yes, that Larry Summers) calculated the total cost of the coronavirus pandemic at more than $16 trillion in the United States alone. Of that, about $7 trillion is attributable to loss of life and long-term impairment from the disease.

  • Enhanced testing and tracing would cost about $6 million per 100,000 inhabitants, they calculate. Out of that population, 14 lives would be saved, on which they place a value of $96 million, and 33 critical and severe cases would be avoided, representing savings of $80 million.
  • That adds up to $176 million in benefits from $6 million in costs — before taking into account any second-order effects from even fewer cases down the road.

The bottom line: "Currently, the U.S. prioritizes spending on acute treatment," write Cutler and Summers, "with far less spending on public health services and infrastructure."

  • Going forward, they write, "a minimum of 5% of any COVID economic relief intervention should be devoted to such health measures."

Go deeper

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
23 hours ago - Health

The good and bad news about coronavirus antibody therapies

Illustration: Axios Visuals

Antibody treatments are showing promise as an important tool against the coronavirus, but there aren't going to be a lot of them at first and they could also come with hefty price tags.

Driving the news: Regeneron announced on Wednesday that its antibody cocktail reduced infected patients’ need to visit the doctor or go to the hospital by 57% — but there are only 50,000 doses available right now, Stat reports.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: The good and bad news about antibody therapies — Fauci: Hotspots have materialized across "the entire country."
  2. World: Belgium imposes lockdown, citing "health emergency" due to influx of cases.
  3. Economy: Conference Board predicts economy won’t fully recover until late 2021.
  4. Education: Surge threatens to shut classrooms down again.
  5. Technology: The pandemic isn't slowing tech.
  6. Travel: CDC replaces COVID-19 cruise ban with less restrictive "conditional sailing order."
  7. Sports: High school football's pandemic struggles.
  8. 🎧Podcast: The vaccine race turns toward nationalism.
15 hours ago - World

Belgium imposes lockdown, citing "health emergency" due to influx of COVID-19 cases

Belgium Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. Photo: THIERRY ROGE/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images

Belgium is enforcing a strict lockdown starting Sunday amid rising coronavirus infections, hospital admissions and a surge of deaths, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced on Friday.

Why it matters: De Croo said the government saw no choice but to lock down "to ensure that our health care system does not collapse." Scientists and health officials said deaths have doubled every six days, per the Guardian.