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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

Harris tests negative after contact with staff member who has COVID

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris tested negative for COVID-19 on Wednesday after being in contact with a staff member who has tested positive for the virus, according to a statement released on Wednesday afternoon.

Driving the news: "As a part of that regular testing, the Vice President received an antigen test this morning and tested negative," said Symone Sanders, Harris' senior adviser and chief spokesperson, adding that Harris also received a PCR test that came back negative.

Dec 22, 2021 - World

NHL players won't participate in Beijing Olympics due to COVID

Photo: Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

The NHL announced Wednesday that the league's players will not participate in the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

Why it matters: The move comes amid a surge in coronavirus infections, largely driven by the newly discovered Omicron variant, and after the league announced that it would briefly postpone all NHL games through Christmas.

Dec 22, 2021 - Health

FDA authorizes first pill to treat COVID at home

Paxlovid. Photo courtesy of Pfizer Inc.

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday authorized Pfizer's antiviral pill for the treatment of individuals at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Why it matters: At-home COVID-19 treatments, especially Pfizer's Paxlovid, are seen as possible game-changers for the pandemic. The emergency use authorization comes as the U.S. sees a surge in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations largely driven by the Omicron variant.