Symptoms and recovery among adult outpatients with and without COVID-19 at 11 healthcare facilities-July 2020, United States

Author Department

Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine

Document Type

Article, Peer-reviewed

Publication Date



Background: Symptoms of mild COVID-19 illness are non-specific and may persist for prolonged periods. Effects on quality of life of persistent poor physical or mental health associated with COVID-19 are not well understood.

Methods: Adults aged ≥18 years with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 and matched control patients who tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 infection at outpatient facilities associated with 11 medical centers in the United States were interviewed to assess symptoms, illness duration, and health-related quality of life. Duration of symptoms, health-related quality of life measures, and days of poor physical health by symptoms experienced during illness were compared between case patients and controls using Wilcoxon rank-sum tests. Symptoms associated with COVID-19 case status were evaluated by multivariable logistic regression.

Results: Among 320 participants included, 157 were COVID-19 cases and 163 were SARS-CoV-2 negative controls. Loss of taste or smell was reported by 63% of cases and 6% of controls and was strongly associated with COVID-19 in logistic regression models (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 32.4; 95% confidence interval [CI], 12.6-83.1). COVID-19 cases were more likely than controls to have experienced fever, body aches, weakness, or fatigue during illness, and to report ≥1 persistent symptom more than 14 days after symptom onset (50% vs 32%, P < .001). Cases reported significantly more days of poor physical health during the past 14 days than controls (P < .01).

Conclusions: Differentiating COVID-19 from other acute illnesses will require widespread diagnostic testing, especially during influenza seasons. Persistent COVID-19-related symptoms may negatively affect quality of life, even among those initially presenting with mild illness.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; anosmia; convalescence; quality of life; recovery; symptoms duration.