Photo: Viktor Hanachek

With the exception of surgical cases coming through the emergency room and for existing hospitalized patients, the mandate that all non-urgent or elective procedures be cancelled or postponed has been extended until June 15, state officials announced Tuesday. 

The move preserves supplies such as masks, gloves, and hospital gowns that may be needed in stemming the COVID-19 outbreak.

A list of affected procedures includes guidance from the American College of Surgeons Elective Case Triage Guidelines for Surgical Care, according to the mandate. All routine dental and eye care visits are also postponed under this order.

Under the newly expanded conditions of the mandate, Alaska will join Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas in postponing nonessential abortions during the coronavirus pandemic.

The order says that healthcare providers are to "postpone surgical abortion procedures unless the life or physical health of the mother is endangered by continuation of the pregnancy during the period of postponement."

The American College of Surgeons website notes that pregnancy termination surgeries, whether at the request of a patient or for a medical reason, are procedures “that if significantly delayed could cause significant harm.”

Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum explained at a press conference that the change gives health care providers information to make decisions based on their own professional judgment.

Some are reading this decision to be political not medical, citing Dunleavy's operating budget veto from earlier this week that removes $334,000 from the  the Alaska Supreme Court’s budget, and ongoing muscle flex over abortion decisions.

A civil case against the governor was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska over a similar veto last year. The case is still pending.