- Texas, where COVID-19 cases are surging and hospital bed capacity is dwindling in some parts of the state, will suspend elective procedures in four major counties, according to an executive order issued by Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday.
- Like most of the country, Texas placed restrictions on elective surgeries in March. It began loosening them in April. With Texas this week reaching new highs in newly identified cases of infection and hospitalizations, Abbott renewed the disaster declaration across all Texas counties and is initiating the return of restrictions to elective surgery in some areas beginning late Friday.
- The pullback in elective surgeries "is clearly negative" for the medtech industry and could foreshadow similar moves in other hotspot parts of the country, including California, Florida and Oklahoma, Needham & Company analyst Mike Matson wrote in a note to investors Thursday.
Just as the third quarter is about to begin, hospitals and device makers are getting a reminder that regional coronavirus outbreaks threaten to force a return to restrictions on elective procedures.
The Texas order states that hospitals in the counties of Bexar (home to San Antonio), Dallas, Harris (home to Houston), and Travis (home to Austin), are to postpone procedures that aren't medically necessary. The governor may expand, or subtract from, the list of counties covered by the restrictions, and the order remains in effect until further notice.
It does not apply to procedures that would not otherwise take away from bed capacity used to aid in coronavirus response. Accordingly, it also does not single out ambulatory surgery centers, which the medtech industry has viewed as an important partner in helping get through procedure backlogs.
As far as the impact from a single state goes, the four metro areas affected have a combined population of about 19.5 million people, or roughly 6% of the U.S., Matson noted.
Still, "we think it is unlikely that we will see another nationwide suspension of elective procedures given the geographic variation in COVID-19 prevalence and the severe financial impact on hospitals," Matson said, concluding that the medtech industry's predicted rebound in the second half of the year can persist despite regional setbacks.
Other governments may find themselves needing to take similar actions. Arkansas, California, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee all make the list of states that saw spikes in COVID-19 hospitalizations this week. In Arizona, Dignity Health is halting some elective surgeries, the Associated Press reported.
Prior to the increasingly severe recent outbreaks across the South and West, many medtechs expressed optimism about early signs of procedure volume recovery following lowpoints in March and April. While experts say the U.S. is not yet through its "first wave" of infections, some device makers, including Edwards Lifesciences, have acknowledged that the expected third and fourth quarter do not take into account a significant second wave.