By: Neil R. Powe, Bethany Cole, William J. Arnone, and Fay Lomax Cook for the Epidemiology Working Group

Published: May, 2021

Since the beginning of the pandemic in January 2020, government officials and policymakers have faced unprecedented public health and economic challenges. Given conflicting federal public health guidelines, state level variations, and low adherence to public health measures, the COVID-19 pandemic has had, and will continue to have, serious health and economic consequences in the U.S. The pandemic’s outcomes – including number of cases, and rates of hospitalization, deaths, disability, and unemployment – significantly affect the funding, benefits, and equity of Social Security, Medicare, and other social insurance programs.

The goal of the National Academy of Social Insurance’s COVID-19 Task Force Epidemiology Working Group Report is to provide government officials, policymakers, and the public with an independent assessment of the pandemic’s trajectory through 2022. The Working Group, composed of thirteen public health experts from various institutions, examined current epidemiological studies and data, identified key variables that affect pandemic outcomes, and assessed the pandemic’s potential trajectories. Based on existing knowledge and review of current epidemiological research, the Working Group then constructed optimistic, probable, and pessimistic scenarios to inform projections of the pandemic’s trajectory and examine the potential impacts on social insurance programs.

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