St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force warns of troubling trends

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ST. LOUIS – The incident commander of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force offered this assessment of the latest COVID-19 data in the St. Louis area.

“We’re in a very concerning period of time right now,” said Dr. Alex Garza.

He pointed to a recent increase in reported cases and said that increase is about more than increased testing capabilities.  

“We’re absolutely seeing more transmission in the community,” said Garza.

Garza reported a mixed bag of news regarding COVID-19 patients who have been released from the hospital.  He said nearly 100 patients at task force hospitals have been released since Friday.  Garza said it is good to see that many people recover but troublesome to see that many cases.

“We can still turn it around but it’s going to take a really concerted effort from everybody to do that,” said Garza. 

He believes some of the reasons for the increase include the relaxation of restrictions and a false sense of security by some.  He said social distancing, hand washing, and mask-wearing are all key to lowering the spread of COVID-19.

Another concern raised during Monday’s briefing involved the mental health of area youth.

“The stress, the fear, and uncertainty created by COVID-19 can wear down anyone and our teens seem to be particularly vulnerable to this,” said Dr. Rachel Charney, medical director of disaster preparedness at SSM Cardinal Glennon.

She said area pediatric hospitals are seeing a greater need for psychiatric services. 

“Feeling depressed, hopeless, anxious, or angry during COVID-19 can be typical but can also be signs that our teenagers may need more support during this difficult time,” said Charney.

She encourages parents to stay in touch with their pediatricians and to communicate with their children.  Warning signs include unusual mood changes, loss of interest in activities typically enjoyed, and changes in sleep or eating habits.

Charney said parents looking for resources should check with their pediatrician or health insurance provider.  She said another local resource is the Youth Connection Helpline which can be reached by calling 314-819-8802, texting BHEARD to 31658, or chatting at bhrstl.org.

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