The development of COVID-19 variants and how communities are responding to them are among the biggest concerns on the minds of orthopedic surgeons.
Ask Orthopedic Surgeons is a weekly series of questions posed to orthopedic surgeons around the country about clinical, business and policy issues affecting orthopedic care. We invite all orthopedic surgeon and specialist responses.
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Note: Responses were edited for style.
Question: What is your biggest concern over the next six months? Why?
Vishal Sarwahi, MD. Cohen Children's Medical Center (New Hyde Park, N.Y.): I am worried about COVID-19 and its variants dominating our work and lives over the next six months. While a resurgence may not result in lockdowns as we faced last year, increasing infections even among the vaccinated will impact elective surgeries. I have had to reschedule surgeries as a family member tested positive or the patient had potential exposures. In addition, some of my team members, staff and residents have tested positive or have had exposures, which impacts their ability to work. Increasing COVID cases in children, especially in summer, suggest that the delta variant may be more infectious. As the numbers increase, especially in the coming months, and the more contagious delta variant spreads, it will affect patients' hospitalization, bed availability and cause patients to avoid hospitals. Will the fall and winter months be déjà vu? Vaccines, visors (masks), and variants will decide.
Mark Wolgin, MD. Orthopaedic Associates (Albany, Ga.): My biggest concern over the next six months is whether we as a country can get on the same page with regard to getting the vaccine, and accordingly, getting control of COVID-19. I have the impression that largely as a result of where people get their news and of how they form their opinions these days, where search engines and social media work on the plan to get eyeballs and enragement is engagement, we are in a time where tribalism is more important than truth. The unvaccinated constitute 95 percent of the admitted COVID-19 patients in our hospital, and until those numbers start to decrease, I and other surgeons are prohibited from doing any case where the patient might stay overnight, thereby arresting a good portion of my spine practice.
Sravisht Iyer, MD. Hospital for Special Surgery (New York City): My biggest concern is probably not much different from many other surgeons and the country at large. The rise of the delta variant and increasing case counts, hospitalization, etc., is a concern. While we had high hopes that the pandemic was receding in the early summer, the resurgence in cases and resulting human suffering, school mask mandates, possibility of further hospital bed crunches, etc., is stressful and distressing.
John Woodward Jr., MD. OrthoONE at Swedish Medical Center (Englewood, Colo.): My biggest concern over the next six months will be how the direction the COVID-19 delta variant goes in our communities. Summer is over and kids have returned to school and society is trying to get back to pre-COVID work levels. I worry that people may forgo healthcare needs if the delta variant numbers rise. Obviously, this will have a negative impact across all of orthopaedic care. The reality is that we are likely going to be living with this virus and its variants for a very long time.