The COVID-19 pandemic confronts intensive care medicine with a new clinical picture, which is manifested in various forms and which clearly differs from the classic acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Ventilation therapy for COVID-19 pneumonia is complex and, contrary to previous guidelines for the treatment of acute respiratory failure, an increasing number of these patients do not primarily receive invasive ventilation. High-flow O2 therapy and non-invasive ventilation by mask or ventilation helmet have become key treatment options. In endeavours to provide respiratory care to all segments of the population whenever necessary, other therapeutic devices may be employed. The fact that milder cases of these diseases can also be treated with less expensive out-of-hospital ventilators and HFOT devices and that a full-fledged intensive care ventilator may not be imperative must be considered in the final decision. Nevertheless, answers to the triage and allocation of ventilators must be found in a discussion involving society as a whole and the health sciences in particular. The health sciences are called upon to contribute to the public debate on the distribution of all necessary resources during the pandemic.