HEALTH MATTERS: Mandatory mask debate; free flu shots; complicated COVID grief

Health Matters Presented by SSM Health this week takes a look at some of the top medical stories impacting our lives today. SLU Care General Internist Dr. Fred Buckhold at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital disagrees with Missouri Governor Mike Parson's decision to not make mask wearing mandatory in all parts of the state.  Emergency medicine physician Dr. Bary Klevene with SSM Health DePaul Hospital tells us about all the upcoming free flu shots clinics being offered by SSM Health. Senior services physician Dr. Alka Kapoor with SSM Health says complicated grief is quite common during this pandemic. And the director of Perinatal Services at SSM Health St. Mary's Hospital -- Pam Lesser -- tells us about Newsweek Magazine naming St. Mary's one of its 2020 Best Maternity Hospitals.

Here is a complete rundown of this week's show:

1. Dr. FRED BUCKHOLD, SLU Care general internist at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital.   Missouri Governor Mike Parson says he has no plans to issue a mandatory mask order in Missouri -- now that he has recovered from his own bout of COVID-19...saying that may lead to a mandatory vaccine order...which he says he would never do. Dr. Buckhold disagrees. He says it is now proven that mask wearing is vital to stopping transmission of the virus and reducing spread. He says mask wearing should be considered a public health mandate. He says it is the government's job to enact measures that will save people's lives. Dr. Buckhold says we don't know the risk/reward factor for a possible vaccine yet, but polio vaccines are mandated and sometimes it is appropriate for the government to mandate these things for the good of the public.  Dr. Buckhold explains the three types of treatments received by President Trump to treat his case of COVID-19. Dexamethasone he says was probably warranted -- but the side effects are many. Remdesivir shortens the duration of hospitalization for COVID patients. It's an IV medicine. Big side effect is renal failure. Regeneron's monoclonal antibody treatment is still experimental, it reduces viral count and sounds promising but he has some concerns about it because smaller amounts work better than larger amounts which is a bit confusing.

2. Dr. BARY KLEVENE, Emergency Medicine Physician at SSM Health DePaul Hospital. SSM Health is offering free flu shots this weekend and next. Dr. Klevene says its is very important to get a flu shot this year -- especially with COVID-19 still rampant in the STL area. He fears a possible twin-demic. Dr. Klevine says everyone over six months of age should get a flu shot. Flu symptoms are very similar to COVID-19 -- except for the loss of taste and smell. He says you can get both at the same time -- as well as two different flu strains at the same time. The flu shot, he says, will not protect you against COVID-19. He says once you have had COVID, that does not provide any protection from the flu. Dr. Klevene says you cannot get the flu from a flu shot -- the vaccine is an inactivated form of the virus. Now is the perfect time to get the flu shot. Next Saturday October 17th, SSM Health is giving free flu vaccines at the Ronnie's parking lot in South County, at SSM Health DePaul Hospital, and at SSM Health St. Joseph hospitals in St. Charles and Lake St. Louis -- from 8am to noon. Drive through only, first come first serve.

3. Dr. ALKA KAPOOR, senior services physician with the SSM Health Medical Group. Complicated grief is on the rise during this coronavirus pandemic. Every US death results in about 9 survivors who have lost a grandparent, a parent, a spouse, a child or a sibling. Dr. Kapoor says this is so tough on those whose loved ones die in the hospital. Complicated grief lasts much longer than traditional grief -- sometimes months and longer. She says this complicated grief can lead to long term health problems, including depression and mental health challenges.  Dr. Kapoor says increasing awareness is critical to prevent this.  Tips to avoid this include frequent zoom meetings with family members, talking with someone, and realizing this isn't your fault. She says it is also important to allow yourself to grieve but realize these are unusual circumstances. Nothing we can do can prepare us for the situation we are experiencing right now, she says.  Do not feel guilty.

4. PAM LESSER, director of Perinatal Services at SSM Health St. Mary's Hospital. Newsweek Magazine has just named SSM Health St. Mary's Hospital a 2020 Best Maternity Hospital -- the only hospital in the St. Louis region to receive this honor.  Lesser says St. Mary's delivers about 3200 babies a year -- about nine to ten a day. St. Mary's is a high risk pregnancy center -- which means it has physicians who have additional training in addition to being an OB-GYN. They are trained to care for a mom from the simplest case to the most difficult situations.  It also has a Level 3 Neonatal ICU-- which allows them to care for a high risk baby in close contact with the mother.  St. Mary's also partners with SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital's Fetal Care Institute. Lesser says they are trying to reduce first time C section rates. And has a team that makes sure moms are not induced unless absolutely necessary. There are also many safety precautions in place during this pandemic.