The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a surge of patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) in intensive care units across the globe. As experience of managing patients with COVID-19-associated ARDS has grown, so too have efforts to classify patients according to respiratory system mechanics, with a view to optimising ventilatory management. Personalised lung-protective mechanical ventilation reduces mortality and has become the mainstay of treatment in ARDS. In this Viewpoint, we address ventilatory strategies in the context of recent discussions on phenotypic heterogeneity in patients with COVID-19-associated ARDS. Although early reports suggested that COVID-19-associated ARDS has distinctive features that set it apart from historical ARDS, emerging evidence indicates that the respiratory system mechanics of patients with ARDS, with or without COVID-19, are broadly similar. In the absence of evidence to support a shift away from the current paradigm of ventilatory management, we strongly recommend adherence to evidence-based management, informed by bedside physiology, as resources permit.