COVID-19 Patients are Becoming Kidney Patients, but Most Americans are Unaware

May 14, 2020, 11:49am EDT

By Kevin Longino, CEO of National Kidney Foundation and kidney transplant patient

COVID-19 doesn’t just attack a patient’s lungs, it damages the kidneys. But a new Harris Poll released by the National Kidney Foundation shows surprisingly low levels of awareness on both the risk of developing an acute kidney injury as a result of COVID-19, as well as the long-term effects of kidney damage. And Americans want the federal government to do something about it.

COVID-19 and kidney failure

I’ve talked about acute kidney injury before in this blog trying to draw attention to what could be a looming healthcare crisis on the horizon. A new survey we conducted with The Harris Poll shows an alarmingly low understanding of how coronavirus can permanently damage your kidneys. A patient can go into the hospital as a COVID-19 patient and come out as a kidney patient, but just under 1 in 5 (17%) Americans are aware of acute kidney injury as a result of COVID-19. And less than half (46%) are aware that COVID-19 will likely result in a higher number of Americans with chronic kidney disease and/or kidney failure. Once kidneys fail, dialysis or a transplant is needed to survive.

The poll also showed that Americans want the federal government to do something about it. Two-thirds (65%), are concerned over potential shortages of dialysis equipment from COVID-19, and most Americans, (87%), support the federal government stepping in to address any shortages found in hot spots. Support is also high (87%) for the federal government devoting more resources towards the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of kidney disease and significantly increasing funding for kidney research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as a result of kidney-related illness resulting from COVID-19.

As we repeatedly hear from experts, COVID-19 will be with us for a while. How we act today to treat the complications of the virus, which can stay with a person for life, will greatly affect the future health of current and future kidney patients for years to come.

Disparities in minority communities

The data emerging on the extreme toll coronavirus takes on minority communities is disturbing, and one of the communities most affected is the Hispanic community. NKF is hosting a live webinar today, May 14th, in Spanish at 3:00PM ET to discuss the precautions kidney patients should take to stay safe as America reopens. Transplant surgeon, Dr. Juan P. Rocca, and nephrologist, Dr. Jaime Uribarri will address the precautions and considerations for kidney patients, transplant recipients, and caregivers before they return to work and other regular daily activities. COVID-19 Y LA NUEVA NORMALIDAD, will be moderated by award-winning journalist Merijoel Duran.

Final thoughts

Isolation has left me with a lot of time for Happy Hour Zoom calls with friends, many of them from college. It’s been fun to reconnect and without the isolation it never would have happened. But I am also getting in some reading. Lately, I’ve been reading Erik Larson’s “The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz”. It’s a study of leadership in crisis. Conventional wisdom says that Churchill was confident the entire time, yet the only thing he was confident about was that they could not lose because it was an unacceptable outcome. That’s how I feel about coronavirus and the threat it poses to our nation, and to kidney patients. We must persevere through this incredibly challenging time because we cannot afford to lose one more person to a virus that targets the vulnerable in unforeseen ways.

Please continue to check our COVID-19 resource page where we post all the latest information on issues facing our community in English and in Spanish. If you have questions or need support, please contact our toll free patient information help line by calling (855) NKF-CARES, (1-855-653-2273) or by email And join our free online discussion forums.

Be well and stay safe.

Related content

Grateful and 16 years Kidney Strong

By Kevin Longino, CEO of National Kidney Foundation and kidney transplant patient This weekend marks Memorial Day, a traditional lake or beach weekend with all that...