Abstract The virus severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, SARS-CoV-2, is the causative agent of the current COVID-19 pandemic. It possesses a large 30 kilobase (kb) genome that encodes structural, non-structural, and accessory proteins. Although not necessary to cause disease, these accessory proteins are known to influence viral replication and pathogenesis. Through the synthesis of novel infectious clones of SARS-CoV-2 that lack one or more of the accessory proteins of the virus, we have found that one of these accessory proteins, ORF8, is critical for the modulation of the host inflammatory response. Mice infected with a SARS-CoV-2 virus lacking ORF8 exhibit increased weight loss and exacerbated macrophage infiltration into the lungs. Additionally, infection of mice with recombinant SARS-CoV-2 viruses encoding ORF8 mutations found in variants of concern reveal that naturally occurring mutations in this protein influence disease severity. Our studies with a virus lacking this ORF8 protein and viruses possessing naturally occurring point mutations in this protein demonstrate that this protein impacts pathogenesis.Significance Since its emergence in 2019, SARS-CoV-2 has accrued mutations throughout its 30kb genome. Of particular interest are the mutations present in the ORF8 protein, which occur in every major variant. The precise function and impact of this protein on disease severity and pathogenesis remains understudies. Our studies reveal that the ORF8 protein modulates the immune response by impacting macrophage infiltration into the lungs. Additionally, we have shown that the ORF8 protein of SARS-CoV-2 has accrued mutations throughout its evolution that lead to a loss of function phenotype in this protein. Our work reveals that the ORF8 protein of SARS-CoV-2 contributes significantly to disease progression through modulation of the inflammatory response.