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As states begin relaxing state-at-home orders, some hospitals are opening their doors to elective surgeries once again. But some people are still being denied operations, including 69-year-old Deborah Larson of Ivins, Utah. She had a planned knee replacement surgery.
"My knee gives out and I fall down and hurt myself," she says.
But the operation was postponed this week by her hospital because she's over the age of 65.
"I would like to know where this policy came from and why they think all seniors are old, infirm and are going to get sick," she says. "Because that's not true."
Larson says she's healthy and active. But that doesn't necessarily mean she's protected from the virus. People 65 and older account for 80% of deaths from COVID-19 here in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They also have a one in three chance of becoming hospitalized, in part because our immune system weakens as we age.
That's why Larson's hospital is continuing to postpone elective surgeries for those 65 and older. A spokeswoman for Intermountain Health pointed to Utah state guidelines for phased reopening, which say that – at least for now – elective surgeries such as Larson's knee replacement should be for low-risk patients only.
"While these changes may create challenging situations for some people, it is a necessary and appropriate step given the anticipated growth in the number of Utah cases of COVID-19," spokeswoman Erin Goff wrote in a statement. "We appreciate everyone's patience during this time that we're working to ensure the safety of our patients, caregivers and community."
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.