Increased plasma mitochondrial DNA concentrations are associated with poor outcomes in multiple critical illnesses, including COVID19. However, current methods of cell-free mitochondrial DNA quantification in plasma are time-consuming and lack reproducibility. Here, we used next-generation sequencing to characterize the size and genome location of circulating mitochondrial DNA in critically ill subjects with COVID-19 to develop a facile and optimal method of quantification by droplet digital PCR. Sequencing revealed a large percentage of small mitochondrial DNA fragments in plasma with wide variability in coverage by genome location. We identified probes for the mitochondrial DNA genes, cytochrome B and NADH dehydrogenase 1, in regions of relatively high coverage that target small sequences potentially missed by other methods. Serial assessments of absolute mitochondrial DNA concentrations were then determined in plasma from 20 critically ill subjects with COVID-19 without a DNA isolation step. Mitochondrial DNA concentrations on the day of enrollment were increased significantly in patients with moderate or severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) compared with those with no or mild ARDS. Comparisons of mitochondrial DNA concentrations over time between patients with no/mild ARDS who survived, patients with moderate/severe ARDS who survived, and nonsurvivors showed the highest concentrations in patients with more severe disease. Absolute mitochondrial DNA quantification by droplet digital PCR is time-efficient and reproducible; thus, we provide a valuable tool and rationale for future studies evaluating mitochondrial DNA as a real-time biomarker to guide clinical decision-making in critically ill subjects with COVID-19.