Current knowledge regarding mechanisms underlying cardiovascular complications in patients with COVID-19 is limited and urgently needed. We shed light on a previously unrecognized mechanism and unravel a key role of red blood cells, driving vascular dysfunction in patients with COVID-19 infection. We establish the presence of profound and persistent endothelial dysfunction in vivo in patients with COVID-19. Mechanistically, we show that targeting reactive oxygen species or arginase 1 improves vascular dysfunction mediated by red blood cells. These translational observations hold promise that restoring the redox balance in red blood cells might alleviate the clinical complications of COVID-19–associated vascular dysfunction.