Hypoxemia is readily detectable by assessing SpO2 levels, and these are important in optimizing COVID-19 patient management. Hyperlactatemia is a marker of tissue hypoxia, particularly in patients with increased oxygen requirement and microvascular obstruction. We monitored peripheral venous lactate concentrations in hospitalized patients with moderate to severe COVID-19 (n = 18) and in mild ambulatory COVID-19 patients in home quarantine (n = 16). Whole blood lactate decreased significantly during the clinical course and recovery in hospitalized patients (P = 0.008). The blood lactate levels were significantly higher in hospitalized patients than ambulatory patients (day 1: hospitalized versus ambulatory patients P = 0.002; day 28: hospitalized versus ambulatory patients P = < 0.0001). Elevated lactate levels may be helpful in risk stratification, and serial monitoring of lactate may prove useful in the care of hospitalized COVID-19 patients.