The COVID-19 pandemic has brought an unprecedented crisis to the global health sector1. When recovering COVID-19 patients are discharged in accordance with throat or nasal swab protocols using reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), the potential risk of re-introducing the infection source to humans and the environment must be resolved 2,3,4. Here we show that 20% of COVID-19 patients, who were ready for a hospital discharge based on current guidelines, had SARS-CoV-2 in their exhaled breath (~105 RNA copies/m3). They were estimated to emit about 1400 RNA copies into the air per minute. Although fewer surface swabs (1.3%, N=318) tested positive, medical equipment frequently contacted by healthcare workers and the work shift floor were contaminated by SARS-CoV-2 in four hospitals in Wuhan. All air samples (N=44) appeared negative likely due to the dilution or inactivation through natural ventilation (1.6-3.3 m/s) and applied disinfection. Despite the low risk of cross environmental contamination in the studied hospitals, there is a critical need for strengthening the hospital discharge standards in preventing re-emergence of COVID-19 spread.