Many economic analyses, including those that address the COVID-19 pandemic, focus on the value of averting deaths and do not include the value of averting nonfatal illnesses. Yet incorporating the value of averting nonfatal cases may change conclusions about the desirability of the policy. While per case values may be small, the number of nonfatal cases is often large, far outstripping the number of fatal cases. The value of averting nonfatal cases is also increasingly important in evaluating COVID-19 policy options as vaccine- and infection-related immunity and treatments reduce the case-fatality rate. Unfortunately, little valuation research is available that explicitly addresses COVID-19 morbidity. We describe and implement an approach for approximating the value of averting nonfatal illnesses or injuries and apply it to COVID-19 in the United States. We estimate gains from averting COVID-19 morbidity of about 0.01 quality-adjusted life year (QALY) per mild case averted, 0.02 QALY per severe case, and 3.15 QALYs per critical case. These gains translate into monetary values of about $5,300 per mild case, $11,000 per severe case, and $1.8 million per critical case. While these estimates are imprecise, they suggest the magnitude of the effects.
Keywords: COVID-19; quality-adjusted life years (QALYs); value per statistical life (VSL); valuing morbidity risk reductions; willingness to pay (WTP).