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Operating rooms are delaying procedures again. Photo: Lea Suzuki/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

The COVID-19 vaccination rollout led to influxes of patients returning to doctors this summer, but many surgeries are getting postponed again as the Delta variant spreads throughout unvaccinated areas.

The big picture: Medical providers are postponing orthopedic and less-severe outpatient procedures, and device companies are forecasting lower sales in the short term.

What they're saying: "We are experiencing negative effects from the Delta variant on elective procedures, most specifically for us in our joint replacement, being hip and knee as well as spine," Stryker CEO Kevin Lobo told investors Monday at the Morgan Stanley health care conference. "The effects have been more negative than we imagined."

  • Hospitals are postponing procedures most in areas like Texas and Florida, where vaccination rates are lower and staff are stretched thin, Intuitive Surgical CFO Marshall Mohr said at the Wells Fargo health care conference.
  • "There is a direct correlation between hospital resource availability and how strained it is, and deferrable procedures and da Vinci procedures," Mohr said, noting that things like hernias, gall bladder removals and bariatric procedures are among procedures being delayed.

Yes, but: Surgical volumes likely will bounce back, just like they did earlier this year, because people can only put off a procedure for so long.

  • "There is a significant backlog of procedures that will drive a strong recovery," said Joaquin Duato, the incoming CEO of Johnson & Johnson, which makes orthopedic implants.

Go deeper

Sep 17, 2021 - Health

International Mission Board to require COVID vaccine for missionaries

Photo: Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images

The International Mission Board, which deploys thousands of missionaries, announced that its plans to require COVID-19 vaccinations for those they're sending into the field.

Why it matters: COVID-19 refusal rates are among the highest among white evangelical Christians and the requirement by the International Mission Board may be the first U.S. missionary agency known to have such a mandate.

Sep 18, 2021 - Health

Most Kentucky school boards vote in favor of mask mandates

Photo: Paul Bersebach, MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

A majority of school boards in Kentucky voted in favor of mask mandates, according to the Kentucky School Board Association.

Why it matters: A week ago, Kentucky's Republican-dominated legislature voted to revoke a statewide mask mandate in public schools that was meant to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The decision on masks would instead be left up to individual districts.

Mike Allen, author of AM
37 mins ago - Technology

Axios interview: Facebook to try for more transparency

Nick Clegg last year. Photo: Matthew Sobocinski/USA Today via Reuters

Nick Clegg, Facebook's vice president of global affairs, tells me the company will try to provide more data to outside researchers to scrutinize the health of activity on Facebook and Instagram, following The Wall Street Journal's brutal look at internal documents.

Driving the news: Clegg didn't say that in his public response to the series. So I called him to push for what Facebook will actually do differently given the new dangers raised by The Journal.