Around the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, the US federal government told health providers to postpone elective surgeries and “nonessential” medical procedures. These cancellations and delays, which affected everything from hip replacements to cataract surgeries to colonoscopies, were meant to conserve health care resources and minimize exposure to Covid-19. More than 100 hospitals have again resorted to this strategy in recent months because of the delta surge.
For the thousands of people across the country who were and are awaiting important medical care, these indefinite cancellations have been devastating. Experts and patients told Vox that the perceived importance of a given procedure is largely up to interpretation — as well as the whims of local politics.