Characteristics of Adult Outpatients and Inpatients with COVID-19 - 11 Academic Medical Centers, United States, March-May 2020

Author Department

Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine

Document Type

Article, Peer-reviewed

Publication Date



Descriptions of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the United States have focused primarily on hospitalized patients. Reports documenting exposures to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, have generally been described within congregate settings, such as meat and poultry processing plants (1) and long-term care facilities (2). Understanding individual behaviors and demographic characteristics of patients with COVID-19 and risks for severe illness requiring hospitalization can inform efforts to reduce transmission. During April 15-May 24, 2020, telephone interviews were conducted with a random sample of adults aged ≥18 years who had positive reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test results for SARS-CoV-2 in outpatient and inpatient settings at 11 U.S. academic medical centers in nine states. Respondents were contacted 14-21 days after SARS-CoV-2 testing and asked about their demographic characteristics, underlying chronic conditions, symptoms experienced on the date of testing, and potential exposures to SARS-CoV-2 during the 2 weeks before illness onset (or the date of testing among those who did not report symptoms at the time of testing). Among 350 interviewed patients (271 [77%] outpatients and 79 [23%] inpatients), inpatients were older, more likely to be Hispanic and to report dyspnea than outpatients. Fewer inpatients (39%, 20 of 51) reported a return to baseline level of health at 14-21 days than did outpatients (64%, 150 of 233) (p = 0.001). Overall, approximately one half (46%) of patients reported known close contact with someone with COVID-19 during the preceding 2 weeks. This was most commonly a family member (45%) or a work colleague (34%). Approximately two thirds (64%, 212 of 333) of participants were employed; only 35 of 209 (17%) were able to telework. These findings highlight the need for screening, case investigation, contact tracing, and isolation of infected persons to control transmission of SARS-CoV-2 infection during periods of community transmission. The need for enhanced measures to ensure workplace safety, including ensuring social distancing and more widespread use of cloth face coverings, are warranted (3).