Many Hospitals Are Resuming Elective Procedures as New COVID-19 Cases Spike

To free up hospital capacity and prevent the spread of infection among staff, health care centers across the U.S. paused elective procedures at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. However, when some states began re-opening in May, many of their hospitals chose to resume elective procedures.

Federal recommendations and industry guidelines say nonurgent procedures should not restart until there is at least a sustained 14-day reduction in new COVID-19 cases in the relevant geographic area. However, as states that reopened, including Arizona, Florida, and Texas, are seeing waves of new COVID-19 cases, and as hospital ICUs are reaching capacity, state governments and hospital associations are deferring to individual hospitals on whether elective procedures should continue.

“The [American Hospital Association] has long believed that determinations about nonemergent treatment and procedures are best addressed by hospitals and their clinicians in collaboration with their local and state officials and public health leaders,” the group wrote in a statement.

Hospitals in southern Florida have reported pausing some elective surgeries, although a spokesperson for the Florida Hospital Association told Axios that “facility readiness to resume elective surgery will vary by geographic location.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott released an executive order saying hospitals in certain hotspots across the state “must postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not medically necessary.” This order, however, “shall not apply to any surgery or procedure that … would not deplete any hospital capacity needed to cope with the COVID-19 disaster.”

“They know how to manage their business,” a spokesperson for the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association, which is not advising hospitals on whether to pause procedures, told Axios.

Sources: Axios, July 9, 2020; Texas State Executive Order No. GA-27, June 25, 2020; AHA statement to Axios, July 8, 2020.