The clinical characteristics of patients with COVID-19 were analysed to determine the factors influencing the prognosis and virus shedding time to facilitate early detection of disease progression. Logistic regression analysis was used to explore the relationships among prognosis, clinical characteristics and laboratory indexes. The predictive value of this model was assessed with receiver operating characteristic curve analysis, calibration and internal validation. The viral shedding duration was calculated using the Kaplan–Meier method, and the prognostic factors were analysed by univariate log-rank analysis and the Cox proportional hazards model. A retrospective study was carried out with patients with COVID-19 in Tianjin, China. A total of 185 patients were included, 27 (14.59%) of whom were severely ill at the time of discharge and three (1.6%) of whom died. Our findings demonstrate that patients with an advanced age, diabetes, a low PaO2/FiO2 value and delayed treatment should be carefully monitored for disease progression to reduce the incidence of severe disease. Hypoproteinaemia and the fever duration warrant special attention. Timely interventions in symptomatic patients and a time from symptom onset to treatment <4 days can shorten the duration of viral shedding.