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The relationship between SARS-CoV-2 viral load and risk of disease progression remains largely undefined in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). We quantified SARS-CoV-2 viral load from participants with a diverse range of COVID-19 severity, including those requiring hospitalization, outpatients with mild disease, and individuals with resolved infection. SARS-CoV-2 plasma RNA was detected in 27% of hospitalized participants and 13% of outpatients diagnosed with COVID-19. Amongst the participants hospitalized with COVID-19, higher prevalence of detectable SARS-CoV-2 plasma viral load was associated with worse respiratory disease severity, lower absolute lymphocyte counts, and increased markers of inflammation, including C-reactive protein and IL-6. SARS-CoV-2 viral loads, especially plasma viremia, were associated with increased risk of mortality. SARS-CoV-2 viral load may aid in the risk stratification of patients with COVID-19 and its role in disease pathogenesis should be further explored.

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