As America prepares for what seems to be an inevitable influx of COVID-19 patients over the coming weeks, many medical providers are concerned that there won't be enough ICU beds and ventilators to treat these new cases. Over the weekend, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams called on healthcare and hospital companies to consider halting all elective surgeries.

Instead, the Surgeon General called on U.S. hospitals to conserve medical resources and further prepare for a surge in COVID-19 patients that could overwhelm the healthcare system. Such is the case in countries like Italy, where the number of COVID-19 patients has swelled to over 25,000 on Monday. 

Multiple hospital beds lined up in a hospital room.

Image source: Getty Images.

Some hospital associations responded by pushing back against the request, citing that certain important surgeries like removing a cancerous tumor or replacing a faulty heart valve fall under the classification of elective surgeries as well. For the most part, however, curtailing at least some of the less important elective surgeries seems like a no-brainer. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health issued an official order on Sunday requiring that "hospitals much cancel non-essential elective procedures," to prepare for COVID-19.

Wider implications

Patients who need elective surgeries that aren't potentially life-threatening will likely be postponed to an unspecified later date. Some major hospital stocks, such as HCA Healthcare, have seen their share prices plunge over the past month or so. On the other hand, biotech stocks working on a COVID-19 treatment, such as Gilead Sciences as well as niche companies like telehealth provider Teladoc, has seen their shares rise significantly.