BOSTON — Massachusetts has set the ambitious goal of processing testing for COVID-19 to 75,000 tests a day by the end of the year, at least seven times the number currently being done.
Gov. Charlie Baker said testing capacity will be critical to the state's ability to safely reopen for commercial and social activities.
"Important groundwork has been laid to expand lab capacity and testing infrastructure," Baker said at Thursday's pandemic update. "Now we need to build on that foundation, as we continue to fight the virus for the long term."
Overall testing capacity has risen to about 30,000 a day with about 10,000 to 12,000 tests currently being done; Wednesday saw 14,000 processed.
The governor's plan calls for boosting capacity to 45,000 a day by the end of July, or 16 million a year; by the end of December, 75,000 a day or 27 million a year.
The goal will be to decrease the positive testing rate to 5 percent. It's currently ranged from 9 percent to 14 percent, down from a quarter to a third of tests coming back positive a month ago.
The governor said testing capacity, in combination with the safety mandates outlined on Tuesday for social distancing, sanitization and wearing of face covering and supplies of personnel protective equipement, will be critical for the state's recovery. It will also allow the Bay State to prepare for an expected "second wave" of novel coronavirus infections in the fall.
"The initiatives that we laid out today are crucial to our efforts to continue to fight the virus, but they also lay the groundwork for a successful reopening of our economy on a phased in basis," he said. "Implementing our long-term testing strategy will be critical to keeping people safe, even as we start to open things back up. ...
"Our top priority is fighting the virus as we return to something like a new normal."
On Wednesday, the Department of Public Health somewhat loosened the strictures on who can be tested to include symptomatic individuals, those who have had close contact with confirmed cases and those whose employment puts them at risk.
The advisory for testing now includes mild systems such as fever, chills, lower respiratory illness, head and body aches, fatigue, loss of taste or smell, and, less common, gastrointestinal symptoms and inflammatory conditions. Testing must still be referred by a hospital or physician.
"We also want to support randomized testing for surveillance purposes, which will be built on the work being done by the Community Tracing Collaborative to track the virus and understand what communities are seeking seeing infections," the governor said.
CVS, which set up some of the first community testing sites, is expanding to open 10 more testing locations including in Northampton and West Springfield as part of a national program. Referred individuals can make appointments to go to the drive-up window, receive a kit for self-testing, and have it sent by CVS to a lab for processing.
The new testing kits have shorter swabs that not only allow for self-testing but also require far less PPE for those administering them.
Baker said universal testing has been ruled out because of its limitations and that the focus will be on a strategically applied and target approach as recemmended by medical and public health experts.
"There's no half currently to achieving what many refer to as universal testing, which has its own limitations," he said. "And it's frankly too far off to rely on for our reopening."
Baker said the state will be submitting its plan to the federal government for testing resource support under the federal COVID-19 legislation passed last month.
In regard to protective gear, the governor said his team has been working with Chinese officials to get equipment not made in the United States. More than 7.5 million pieces of PPE have been delivered via six chartered flights to Logan International Airport since April 20.
Baker said the containment of COVID-19 is not be possible without residents voluntarily curtailing their non-essential activities and abiding by the stay-home advisory and, once the reopening report comes out Monday, continuing to follow those guidelines.
"When you look at all the mobility data that's been generated by by Google and others, Massachusetts, once again, is a top five player and people's willingness under an advisory to adopt those principles and practices themselves which we are enormously grateful for," he said.
"As we move forward on the phased deployment, it will be incredibly important maybe even more important that people take seriously the guidance and the criteria and the protocols that are going to be part of that report."
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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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