The high rate of thrombotic complications associated with COVID-19 seems likely to reflect viral infection of vascular endothelial cells, which express the ACE2 protein that enables SARS-CoV-2 to invade cells. Various proinflammatory stimuli can promote thrombosis by inducing luminal endothelial expression of tissue factor (TF), which interacts with circulating coagulation factor VII to trigger extrinsic coagulation. The signalling mechanism whereby these stimuli evoke TF expression entails activation of NADPH oxidase, upstream from activation of the NF-kappaB transcription factor that drives the induced transcription of the TF gene. When single-stranded RNA viruses are taken up into cellular endosomes, they stimulate endosomal formation and activation of NADPH oxidase complexes via RNA-responsive toll-like receptor 7. It is therefore proposed that SARS-CoV-2 infection of endothelial cells evokes the expression of TF which is contingent on endosomal NADPH oxidase activation. If this hypothesis is correct, hydroxychloroquine, spirulina (more specifically, its chromophore phycocyanobilin) and high-dose glycine may have practical potential for mitigating the elevated thrombotic risk associated with COVID-19.© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2020. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.