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Am Fam Physician. 2023;107(6):652-654

This clinical content conforms to AAFP criteria for CME.

Author disclosure: No relevant financial relationships.

Clinical Question

Is it possible to identify patients who are at low risk for severe disease from COVID-19 based on clinical examination alone or supplemented by laboratory testing?

Evidence Summary

Almost three years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the health care system is still struggling to meet patient needs. More than 5,000 patients are hospitalized daily because of COVID-19, and more than 1,000 patients are dying from it each week.1,2 Meanwhile, the current influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) season has been more severe than in past years, with 330,000 patients hospitalized for influenza and an RSV hospitalization rate of 33.9 per 100,000 people.3,4 Because of this strain on the health care system, a simple tool to predict the need for hospitalization and risk of mortality in patients with COVID-19 would help facilitate disposition to the correct level of care.

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This guide is one in a series that offers evidence-based tools to assist family physicians in improving their decision-making at the point of care.

This series is coordinated by Mark H. Ebell, MD, MS, deputy editor for evidence-based medicine.

A collection of Point-of-Care Guides published in AFP is available at

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