Vaccinations are widely credited with reducing death rates from COVID-19, but the underlying host-viral mechanisms/interactions for morbidity and mortality of SARS-CoV-2 infection remain poorly understood. Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) describes the severe lung injury, which is pathologically associated with alveolar damage, inflammation, non-cardiogenic edema, and hyaline membrane formation. Because proteostatic pathways play central roles in cellular protection, immune modulation, protein degradation, and tissue repair, we examined the pathological features for the unfolded protein response (UPR) using the surrogate biomarker glucose-regulated protein 78 (GRP78) and co-receptor for SARS-CoV-2. At autopsy, immunostaining of COVID-19 lungs showed highly elevated expression of GRP78 in both pneumocytes and macrophages compared with that of non-COVID control lungs. GRP78 expression was detected in both SARS-CoV-2-infected and un-infected pneumocytes as determined by multiplexed immunostaining for nucleocapsid protein. In macrophages, immunohistochemical staining for GRP78 from deceased COVID-19 patients was increased but overlapped with GRP78 expression taken from surgical resections of non-COVID-19 controls. In contrast, the robust in situ GRP78 immunostaining of pneumocytes from COVID-19 autopsies exhibited no overlap and was independent of age, race/ethnicity, and gender compared with that from non-COVID-19 controls. Our findings bring new insights for stress-response pathways involving the proteostatic network implicated for host resilience and suggest that targeting of GRP78 expression with existing therapeutics might afford an alternative therapeutic strategy to modulate host-viral interactions during SARS-CoV-2 infections.