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Berkshire, Statewide COVID-19 Trends Appearing to Decline

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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — There are signs the Bay State may be turning the corner on the novel coronavirus that has so far caused more than 5,000 deaths in Massachusetts. 
 
The Department of Public Health on Tuesday recorded the lowest number of reported deaths since March 4: 33
 
The number of hospitalizations has continued to decline at 4 percent. The number of patients in intensive care on Tuesday morning was 818, less than a third of the total of 3,127 hospitalized. 
 
The Berkshires' death toll has remained at 37 for past week and had been at 36 for almost the week before that. The majority of deaths are linked to an outbreak of the highly contagious disease at Williamstown Commons that caused the deaths of 21 patients at the nursing and rehabilitation center. 
 
As of May 11, the nursing home reported 49 residents had recovered, seven were positive and five positive community residents had been admitted into the isolated unit. 
 
Berkshire Medical Center on Tuesday reported four patients and Fairview Hospital, one; there more were awaiting test results. Of the 5,000 or so tests given by the hospital, the positive rate is about 9 percent, on par with the state average. 
 
The number of positive cases reported in Berkshire County is now 485, about an 8 percent increase over the past two weeks compared to the last two weeks of April that saw the number of cases jump 16 percent. These totals are cumulative and include people who have recovered. 
 
"If you look at the data, the trend over the past two weeks locally and statewide has been encouraging," Mayor Thomas Bernard said on Tuesday evening. "We really have seen a leveling off over the past two weeks. But it's important to remember, at all times that that is thanks to, and it will only continue if, we continue to follow state guidance. That's the stay-at-home advisory that's the mask order."
 
Those age 60 and older continue to be the most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus, with two-thirds of the casualties being age 80 or older even though they don't make up a significant number of the positive cases at only 15 percent. Almost all of these deaths occurred in a nursing home. The average age of COVID-19 cases is 53 and the average age of those hospitalized is 68. 
 
No children or teens have reportedly died from the coronavirus but five people in their 20s and 16 in their 30s have. The number jumps significantly for those in their 60s: 504 compared to 230 deaths of people in their 40s and 50s.
 
The number of new cases has also been declining statewide even as testing for COVID-19 has expended. New positive cases were reported on Monday at 669 and on Tuesday at 870. These are the lowest numbers since the end of March (with the exception of a dip of 765 on April 5).
 
Gov. Charlie Baker touted the state's testing capacity on Monday, noting that 12,000 tests had been processed in the last round and nearly 400,000 tests total had been processed. About 9 percent of the tests were coming back positive, compared to the first weeks in April, when between a quarter and a third of all tests were positive. 
 
Those testing numbers "continues to make us a national leader," he said. "And if we were a country, we'd actually be a global leader on a per-capita basis."
 
Two of the key markers the state would need to see to "reopen" are decreases in the number of positive test results and the percentage of hospitalizations. 
 
Baker on Tuesday said the number of tests reported was about 6,300 but put figured it was a little lower "because people didn't want to go out and get tested on Mother's Day."
 
About 12 percent were positive, which he said continues to be in the range of the past week. And while the lowering percentage of hospitalizations is promising, "we also crossed the sobering and sad threshold yesterday of more than 5,000 individuals who have died here in Massachusetts as a result of COVID-19."
 
"We remain one of the hardest hit states by the COVID-19 pan and we still have a lot to do and a way to go to contain the infection rate and reduce the number of people who need serious hospital care," the governor said. "While these numbers have been encouraging on hospitalizations, positive tests and some other measures, we're not yet out of the woods."
 
The governor's advisory board on reopening is expected to produce a roadmap next Monday that will guide the state through a four-phase process of gradually loosening restrictions based on continued review of public health data. 
 
Businesses and patrons will still be required to abide by public health dictates that include social distancing and wearing a mask when that is not possible to aid in preventing the contagion from resurging.

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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.

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