BOSTON — Continuing and expanding on a campaign to promote telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday announced a new partnership between the commonwealth and Massachusetts-based web service Buoyhealth.com to help residents determine the kind of medical attention they may need.
The online tool developed by Buoy Health allows users to enter information about symptoms they may be feeling and directs them to resources that are available to them, like testing for the novel coronavirus, if it is recommended.
The service, which is free to Massachusetts residents, starts by asking a series of questions for a risk assessment.
"When a user screens positive for COVID-19 symptoms or risk factors, they'll be directed to the most appropriate resources for their answers," Baker said. "Those resources include a portal linked up with their health insurance provider to talk over the phone or through video chat with a health care provider, right away.
"This is not to be used in the place of emergency medical care. Instead, it's a tool everyone can use to get more information about their health and get connected quickly to the people they need to talk to to get the best guidance and advice about what to do next."
Baker has been holding daily press briefings in Boston since the pandemic began hitting home in Massachusetts last week.
Friday's news conference included an announcement that the governor and legislative leaders reached an agreement to push the state's income tax filing deadline to July 15 and a call for anyone entering the commonwealth from other states to self-quarantine for 14 days once they arrive in Massachusetts.
And as he has done repeatedly the last couple of weeks, Baker reiterated that the commonwealth has made telehealth a defined benefit under health insurance plans in Massachusetts.
He also gave Buoy Health co-founder Andrew Le, a graduate of Harvard's Medical School, a chance to talk about the online tool he helped create.
"As a local business here in Boston, our team is eager to help residents in our home state," Le said. "We were founded to help people figure out what to do when they're sick and injured. That mission has never been more relevant than it is today.
"We started the company in 2013. We read thousands of clinical papers to teach the program. That took us four years. We launched to the public in 2017 and have 7.5 million users on Buoy and see a new person every 13 seconds. Every single time someone uses the program, we learn a little more about how each individual is different."
Baker and Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders talked about some of the other initiatives the administration is taking to address the public health crisis.
• The most visible move for many will be a campaign to present every person arriving at Logan Airport, Worcester Regional Airport or Boston's South Station with a pamphlet instructing them to exercise a self-quarantine. The pamphlets also will be available at rest areas on the Mass Pike and other vehicular points of entry, Baker said.
"I am asking all visitors arriving in Massachusetts to comply with this," Baker said. "Furthermore, I am asking that folks considering travel to Massachusetts for whatever reason do not travel to our communities, especially if you have symptoms."
Baker prefaced his announcement of the self-quarantine advisory by referencing a recent White House advisory that anyone leaving New York or who has traveled through New York City should isolate themselves for 14 days.
• Sudders and Baker announced new emergency orders that will expand the prescribing privileges of advanced practice registered nurses and issue 90-day emergency licenses to recent medical school graduates.
• Baker said the administration is cutting red tape to make it easier for medical professionals to work at different hospitals and cross state lines to work in Massachusetts and has eased the path for retired doctors who want to temporarily return to practice.
On the economic side of the crisis, Baker said the agreement between the legislature and executive branches will bring Massachusetts in line with a previously announced federal move to a July 15 deadline for filing and paying personal income taxes.
"The change will provide taxpayers with significant relief at a very uncertain time" Baker said. "We look forward to working with the legislature to get this enacted."
Toward the end of Friday's news conference, Baker was asked if he thought President Trump's stated goal of "reopening the country by Easter" was realistic in Massachusetts.
"I think the guidance we're getting from the advisory committee set up by the [COVID-19 Response] Command Center and Secretary Sudders and health care providers … is that, no, we're not going to be up and running by Easter [April 12], no," Baker said.
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Know Your Risk Tolerance at Different Stages of Life
Submitted by Edward Jones
As an investor, you will always need to deal with risk of some kind. But how can you manage the risk that has been made clear by the recent volatility in the financial markets? The answer to this question may depend on where you are in life.
Let's look at some different life stages and how you might deal with risk at each of them:
• When you are first starting out: If you are early in your career, with perhaps four or even five decades to go until you retire, you can likely afford to invest primarily for growth, which also means you will be taking on a higher level of risk, as risk and reward are positively correlated. But, given your age, you have time to overcome the market downturns that are both inevitable and a normal part of investing. Consequently, your risk tolerance may be relatively high. Still, even at this stage, being over-aggressive can be costly.
• When you are in the middle stages: At this time of your life, you are well along in your career, and you are probably working on at least a couple of financial goals, such as saving for retirement and possibly for your children's college education. So, you still need to be investing for growth, which means you likely will need to maintain a relatively high risk tolerance. Nonetheless, it's a good idea to have some balance in your portfolio, so you will want to consider a mix of investments that align with each of your goals.
• When you are a few years from retirement: Now, you might have already achieved some key goals – perhaps your kids have finished college and you have paid off your mortgage. This may mean you have more money available to put away for retirement, but you still will have to think carefully about how much risk you are willing to take. Since you’re going to retire soon, you might consider rebalancing your portfolio to include some more conservative investments, whose value is less susceptible to financial market fluctuations. The reason? In just a few years, when you are retired, you will need to start taking withdrawals from your investment portfolio – essentially, you will be selling investments, so, as much as possible, you will want to avoid selling them when their price is down. Nonetheless, having a balanced and diversified portfolio doesn't fully protect against a loss. However, you can further reduce the future risk of being overly dependent on selling variable investments by devoting a certain percentage of your portfolio to cash and cash equivalents and designating this portion to be used for your daily expenses during the years immediately preceding, and possibly spilling into, your retirement.
• When you are retired: Once you are retired, you might think you should take no risks at all. But you could spend two or three decades in retirement, so you may need some growth potential in your portfolio to stay ahead of inflation. Establishing a withdrawal rate – the amount you take out each year from your investments – that's appropriate for your lifestyle and projected longevity can reduce the risk of outliving your money. Of course, if there's an extended market downturn during any time of your retirement, you may want to lower your withdrawal rate temporarily.
As you can see, your tolerance for risk, and your methods of dealing with it, can change over time. By being aware of this progression, you can make better-informed investment decisions.
Wayne Gelinas and Lea King have been forced to shutter their Mohawk Trail eatery, at least for the time being. But they have found a way to continue business online while providing free meals to those in need.
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