COVID-19 patients may exhibit neuropsychiatric and neurological symptoms. We found that anxiety and cognitive impairment are manifested by 28-56% of SARS-CoV-2-infected individuals with mild respiratory symptoms and are associated with altered cerebral cortical thickness. Using an independent cohort, we found histopathological signs of brain damage in 25% of individuals who died of COVID-19. All of the affected brain tissues exhibited foci of SARS-CoV-2 infection and replication, particularly in astrocytes. Infection of neural stem cell-derived astrocytes changed energy metabolism, altered key proteins and metabolites used to fuel neurons and for biogenesis of neurotransmitters, and elicited a secretory phenotype that reduces neuronal viability. Our data support the model where SARS-CoV-2 reaches the brain, infects astrocytes and triggers neuropathological changes that contribute to the structural and functional alterations in the brain of COVID-19 patients.