Monthly Archives: October 2020

Nine Months of COVID-19, Visualized

Johns Hopkins has maintained one of the go-to data sites for the global coronavirus pandemic, where their time series data stretches back to 22 January 2020.

Since the data shows weekly 'seasonality', where daily statistics tend to be underreported on weekends, the common trick most analysts have adopted to work around the regular noise that creates in the data is to track the seven day moving average of the daily count of newly confirmed COVID-19 cases and reported deaths. We now have nine months worth of those seven month moving averages, and with coronavirus cases surging in Europe and on the rise in the U.S., we thought it was a good time to focus just on those two regions.

Here's a chart showing the rolling seven day moving averages for the number of newly confirmed COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents in both the United States and the 27 nations of the European Union. It shows that the EU has become the new global epicenter for the spread of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infections, with an average rate of spread among its residents that has skyrocketed to be more than double that in the U.S.

U.S. and EU-27: Newly Confirmed COVID-19 Cases per 100,000 Residents, 7-Day Moving Averages, 29 January 2020 - 28 October 2020

We have a second chart tracking the rolling seven day moving averages for the number of newly reported COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 residents in both the U.S. and the EU-27.

U.S. and EU-27: Newly Reported COVID-19 Deaths per 100,000 Residents, 7-Day Moving Averages, 29 January 2020 - 28 October 2020

This second chart shows a significant difference in the experience of the EU-27 and the U.S. The rate of deaths in the European Union is rising rapidly, following the basic pattern that the spread of newly confirmed cases has in the region, where it is nearing double the rate occurring in the U.S. as of 28 October 2020. What stands out here however is that the relative rate of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. has fallen within a relatively narrow range over the last two months, even though the number of cases in the U.S. has been rising over nearly that entire period of time.

This difference between the two regions helps explain why much of Europe is retreating into lockdown mode, despite knowing the economic damage that will be caused by doing so, while the U.S. appears better positioned to weather its latest regional wave of cases.

Speaking of which, we'll close by linking to the changing map for COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 in the U.S. created by sdbernard, which is as well done as any COVID-19 data visualization we've seen:

[OC] Animation showing the number of Covid-19 deaths per 100k, by county in the US since the start of the pandemic from r/dataisbeautiful

Most of the U.S.' excess number of COVID-19 deaths can be attributed to just four states that sustained a particularly disastrous policy in the early months of the pandemic.

Australian Politics 2020-10-28 15:44:00


'We're full!' Overwhelming number of Australians say the country doesn't need any more immigration as voters reject 'leftist elites'

An overwhelming majority of Australians oppose high immigration, fearing it could affect their way of life, a study has found.

Before the pandemic saw the border closed to non-citizens and non-residents in March, Australia's net annual immigration rate was approaching 200,000.

Australia's population also surpassed the 25million mark in August 2018 - 24 years earlier than predicted in the federal government's inaugural Intergenerational Report of 2002.

With Sydney and Melbourne among the world's least affordable housing markets, 72 per cent of respondents have told The Australian Population Research Institute (TAPRI) Australia was full.

The survey of 2,029 people was taken in October and November 2019 - four months before Prime Minister Scott Morrison closed Australia's border to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Half the people polled wanted a reduction in immigration, fearing it caused more pollution and congestion.

Study authors and sociologists Katharine Betts and Bob Birrell said rapid population growth before the pandemic had worried a majority of Australians, who regarded both major parties are representing the interests of 'leftist elites'.

'High immigration was responsible for the deterioration of the quality of life in Australia's big cities, as well as stressing its natural environment,' they said in an opinion piece for News Corp.

'Moreover, at least half the electorate do not support the progressive cultural values that left elites (including Labor’s leaders) regard as legitimating high immigration. 'This is a key finding since it shows that there is only lukewarm support for the core Big Australia strategy of high immigration.

'We can say with confidence based on our and other surveys that half the electorate are prepared to say, within the safety of an anonymous survey, that immigration should be reduced.'

Former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd a decade ago declared himself to be a supporter of a 'big Australia', with business leaders also favouring high population growth.

His Liberal predecessor John Howard two decades ago increased net immigration levels to the six-figures, putting them well above the 20th century average of 70,000 a year.

The TAPRI survey however found people no longer believed it was 'possible' to accommodate more immigrants.

'The conditions that made it possible to sustain a Big Australia and ignore this concern no longer exist in the post-Covid environment,' the study read.

'If the Coalition, or Labor, does try to revive a Big Australia many of these voters would respond readily to any attempt to mobilise them.

Australia's population stood at 25,715,134 as of October 27, 2020.

The survey found that most respondents who took a stance against more immigration were not university educated, while those with a degree were more likely to back immigration.

While our schools coach kids in social activism, literacy takes a back seat

School students are being groomed for social activism while too many are still functionally illiterate as they leave the classroom.

A new OECD report shows that Australia’s school system has an excess focus on students developing “awareness of global issues”.

Little wonder our students’ performance in the OECD-run Program for International Student Assessment has plummeted faster than almost any other country. More than one in five 15-year-olds don’t have the essential literacy and numeracy they will need to be successful in work or further study.

It provides yet further evidence that Australia’s school system has got its priorities upside-down. Of course we should encourage our children to be good global citizens. It’s heartening to know they are inclusive and aware of diversity. They report more positive attitudes about immigrants and embrace the perspectives of others than in most OECD countries.

The problem is that efforts of the school system to engineer ­increased “global competences” comes at a cost — namely the education of our young learners — and for two reasons.

First, there is only so much time in the school day and year. And Australian students already spend more time in the classroom than in most countries. The problem is that this time is not being used well. For decades, teachers and educationalists have warned that the school curriculum has become bloated and overcrowded. Flirting with fashionable but untested teaching trends, entertaining fringe educational issues and bringing woke causes to the classroom are all part of the problem.

Despite this obvious progressive march through the education system, concern over infiltration of those ideas into the curriculum and schools has been routinely dismissed as little more than “conservative hysteria”.

There are now multiple reviews of school curriculums under way across the country, but there is ­little hope the malign and wasteful influences will be struck out.

A central element of the Australian curriculum — which sets the pace for the states and territories — is the focus on so-called “general capabilities”. The competences that are taught and assessed include: personal and social capability; ethical understanding; and intercultural understanding — nice-to-haves, but surely not the centrepiece of schooling.

We need to focus on addressing our students’ literacy and numeracy deficits, with a drive for higher academic standards and expectations from our educators.

The second problem is that, while the curriculum has embraced global issues, it has resisted any effort to reinforce Australian ones. Our students are unfamiliar with our own history, how our democracy works, and have decreasing (or little) national pride.

They’re encouraged to identify as global citizens, rather than as Australians — witness the constant undermining of our national holidays and traditions. Students are often misled to believe our country is racist, sexist, and a selfish polluter. Our school system should educate away foolish misconceptions, rather than promote them in the name of postmodernism and critical theory.

It’s true that the continued pace of globalisation will mean our teenagers need more global awareness than in decades past. But the progressive left has twisted this to mean exclusion of nationhood. We need more, not less, ­emphasis on Australian civics and citizenship — something that successive governments have promised but failed to deliver.

Not only does the education of school students suffer, but so does their wellbeing.

It’s not standardised testing and end-of-school exams that has resulted in the heightened anxiety of our teens but rather the obsessive preaching of celebrity activists, such as Greta Thunberg, who are preoccupied with building students’ political activism.

We must put an end to the needless sacrificing of our young learners’ futures in service of progressive globalism. In its place, we need to remodel a rigorous and ambitious education system that doesn’t continue to ignore national aspirations and needs.

Negative prices: South Australia solar farms had to pay to produce in September

Perverse. Their output has no relationship to the need for it -- so it is often worthless

South Australia’s three large scale solar farms had to effectively pay to produce in the month of September – as the average price of solar power in the state’s grid fell to minus $9.70 a megawatt hour over the calendar month.

“Record low wholesale prices in September resulted in South Australian solar farms having to pay $9.70/MWh to generate,” the Australian Energy Market Operator notes in its latest Quarterly Energy Dynamics report.

Over the whole quarter, the volume weighted average price of large scale solar was $23/MWh, down some 62 per cent from the same time in 2019, while the average price for all electricity produced in South Australia for the quarter was $40/MWh.

There are several reasons for the negative price of South Australia solar – firstly the increase in output from large scale solar, as Bungala 2 finally reached full output, the continued rapid expansion of rooftop solar, which in turn is dramatically reducing operating demand in the middle of the day, and grid constraints which limited the amount of exports from South Australia into Victoria.

South Australia has three large scale solar farms, the 110MW Bungala One installation near Port Augusta, the neighbouring 110MW Bungala Two (which has only just reached full output after nearly two years of delays due to technical issues), and the 95MW Tailem Bend solar farm near the town of the same name.

Tailem Bend usually ducks negative pricing events, turning its output down to zero under the terms of its long term power purchase agreement with Snowy Hydro.

But the two Bungala solar farms, under long term contracts with Origin Energy, plough through the negative prices. The exact nature of the contracts is not known, but it is not necessarily a bad thing for either party, but it’s not a great market signal for more solar, or for more off-take agreements – although it is for storage.

Across the National Electricity Market, which comprises South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, NSW and Queensland, the average price for solar fell to $29/MWh in the September quarter, and the average price for wind fell to $38/MWh, both representing falls of around 50 per cent from the same period a year earlier.

AEMO’s QED report notes that curtailment of wind and solar farms across the NEM rose to 5.5 per cent in the September quarter, a result of the record levels of negative pricing events in South Australia and Queensland, and newly emerging system strength issues in north Queensland.

In Queensland, two solar farms and one wind farm were told of system strength issues that would cause their output to be reduced significantly, or down to zero, depending on conditions, and then another nine solar farms were told the same thing as new modelling unveiled new problems.

In Queensland, the average constraint for wind and solar over the whole quarter was 49MW, up from 5MW in the same period last year. Ironically, the situation was worsened by increased outages at the state’s coal fired generators. New synchronous condensers may alleviate that issue.

Economic constraints – the decision by generators to “self-curtail” in the face of negative prices – meant that on average there was 50MW of curtailment of wind and solar farms through the September quarter. AEMO says 70 per cent of that curtailment occurred in daytime hours between 7am and 7pm.

Queensland police say officer acted appropriately in incident that injured Brisbane refugee protester

The cops were trying to get him away from a fence he was trying to pull down

Queensland police say a video in which an officer appears to hit a refugee protester in the head at a Brisbane rally on Sunday makes the incident "appear far worse than it is".

But Jeff Rickertt, the man who was injured in the incident, rejected the police assessment of the incident as "complete nonsense".

"I felt the force of the blow. My initial reaction was that I'd been hit by a fist," Mr Rickertt said after being released from hospital on Monday afternoon.

He said a CT scan had found no serious head injury, and that he had a laceration on his ear and a dull headache but "otherwise I'm fine".

Tensions between police and activists had been building over a series of protests against the ongoing detention of refugees and asylum seekers at a hotel in the Brisbane suburb of Kangaroo Point.

Protesters provided the ABC with video of what some activists believed was a police officer hitting Mr Rickertt without provocation.

Mr Rickertt was standing by a fence that been erected around the hotel exterior. He was taken to the Mater Hospital after the incident.

"I was struck on the side of the head and for about two hours thereafter the side of my head and my ear were numb with the force of that impact," Mr Rickertt said.

On Monday, Acting Assistant Commissioner Brian Conners told a media conference he believed the actions of the officer were "appropriate".

He said the officer did not strike Mr Rickertt in the video and that the camera angle of the video made the incident "appear far worse than it is".

"The officer didn't strike the male person directly, he reached out with an open hand and grabbed the male person on the back of his clothing to pull him back from the fence," Assistant Commissioner Conners said.

He said other footage available online showed the incident from different angles and he encouraged people to review it. "The circumstances are what they are — review the footage."

One protester, Ruby Thorburn, said she was among the crowd on Sunday afternoon, standing one person away from Mr Rickertt.

Protesters told the ABC a group of 15 to 20 people were slapping their hands against the fence to make noise the men inside the hotel could hear.

"The man who had been targeted by the police officer wasn't actually touching the fence at the time, he had stepped back, and that's when I saw an extremely charged officer who sprinted up and hit him with full force on the left side of his head," Ms Thorburn said.

She said she stayed with Mr Rickertt while he was on the ground. "He looked really hurt. It was a terrifying few seconds when he hit the floor, because it was a really big thud.

"He was quite slow in responding. When he started to respond, we noticed that there was blood coming out of his ear and he was sweating and shaking a lot."

'Directions of police were ignored'

Superintendent Andrew Pilotto said the protest was unauthorised and that many in attendance "were not cooperating with police".

"Prior to the police moving in to safeguard that fence, quite a number of directions were given to protesters to release the fence, step back stand down and re-join the group, and those directions of police were ignored over a considerable period," Superintendent Pilotto said.

"A lot of these people are in police officers' faces for long periods of time, yelling at police officers, throwing things in their faces."

Mr Rickertt said he was not grabbed by the shirt or the neck, and was not near the fence when he was targeted. "I was also conscious throughout the whole process," he said. "I was very aware that I fell to the ground and I'm also very aware that I did not strike my head on the ground.

"The force of the blow to my head by the police officer was what caused the injury that I have."

Police are reviewing the matter internally.




Getting More Than Care from Arizona’s COVID ICU Beds

We've followed the state of Arizona's experience with the coronavirus pandemic since we first recognized the state had become a national hotspot for COVID-19 earlier this summer.

Early on, we employed an analytical method called 'back calculation' to trace changes in trends for the state's COVID data back to significant changes in the incidence of exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. The idea behind back calculation is pretty straightforward. If you know what the median time is from the initial onset of symptom to when someone who has become infected with a serious case is hospitalized, you use any significant changes you see in the trends for new hospital admissions to identify when something changed to affect the rate at which people are being exposed to the virus. Ideally, you can identify a very narrow window of time in which that happens.

Median Post-Exposure COVID-19 Coronavirus Milestones

This kind of analysis also works for data on positive COVID test results and deaths, but the data for hospital admissions works best because it is independent of the factors that affect when test kits are processed or when deaths are reported. It also provides the narrowest potential window of time to consider, the the median time between initial virus exposure and hospitalization falling somewhere between 11 and 13 days, according to the CDC's COVID-19 Pandemic Planning Scenarios.

Working with Arizona's COVID hospital admissions data has been challenging. Mainly that's because the data the state's Department of Health Services makes available is subject to human failings.

As an example, in the latter part of July 2020, Arizona began requiring non-hospital medical facilities to begin reporting their COVID data to the state, which was then incorporated in the statewide data. It shouldn't have been a big deal, but the new reporting suggested Arizona's COVID hospital admissions were far greater than previously released data had indicated. It also suggested that factors affecting changes in trends for hospitalizations were very different from what we were seeing for newly confirmed cases and deaths in the state.

Several weeks ago, Arizona's public health officials found and fixed the problem. It turned out that the number of positive test results collected at urgent care centers in the state were being counted as new hospital admissions, even though in nearly all these cases, the positive-testing patients were never hospitalized in any way. In between, back calculation using Arizona's hospitalization data was highly suspect because of the data corruption. Fortunately, we recognized the issue and worked around it to the greatest extent we could. But it was like not having access to the sharpest scalpel in a doctor's medical bag when you're trying to perform fine surgery.

We wondered if there was any hospital-related data that we could substitute for it, which would have been unaffected by the positive-test contamination issue. And then it struck us! Arizona's COVID data for ICU beds in use falls in an entirely separate category, so it had never been corrupted by the urgent care positive test result data. Here's that data in graphical form (please click here for a full-size version):

So we took Arizona's COVID-19 ICU Bed Usage data for a test drive, adapting our original method for new hospital admissions, and found that it worked nearly as well. The results of that test drive are shown in the following chart showing Arizona's daily COVID ICU admissions chart.

The ICU back calculation chart comes very close to delivering the accuracy we're really after. We think there's a slightly longer lag between initial exposure and ICU admission than there is to just hospital admission, so the predicted timing of changes in trend shown as the purple and green shaded vertical shaded bands in the chart following a significant event are slightly too early. We haven't yet found peer-reviewed data to quantify what that additional lag is, but the changes in trend

In this chart, we're showing two new events we haven't previously discussed that seem to correspond to changes in the overall trajectory for Arizona's COVID ICU admissions. The first, marked with the letter G, corresponds to the Labor Day holiday weekend, which followed the initial reopening of high-risk businesses (like bars and indoor gyms) in most Arizona counties a week earlier.

In this case, we think the impact of social mixing during the holiday weekend itself is responsible for causing the change from a falling to a flat trend. If it had just been the bars reopening, we would have seen the change in trend start a week earlier (we've ruled out other large scale events like the timing of school reopenings or political rallies in the state for similar reasons). We think that while the reopened bars may be tangentally involved as places where social mixing took place during the holiday weekend, they are not the primary contributor to the change in trend that occurred in ICU bed usage in mid-September.

The second change, marked with the letter H, may be partially related to reopened high exposure risk businesses in counties that have seen higher rates of infection within their populations in the weeks since. In this case, we think the delayed reopening of high exposure-risk businesses in Yuma and Greenlee counties on 17 September 2020 may have provided enough additional exposure events to change the trend in ICU hospitalizations from flat to a slowly rising, but steady trend.

Since it is not rising at an exponential rate, we consider the current overall trend to be managable. We think relatively minor steps short of shuttering the just reopened high exposure-risk businesses could be taken to modify the trend in a desirable direction. Those minor steps may include things like contact tracing and continued local ordinance-directed mask usage at public venues and events.

The worst case scenario however would be a repeat of the BLM/anti-police protests from late May and early June 2020, a true superspreader event that made contact tracing useless within the state. The protests took a very managable situation and instead made Arizona a national epicenter for coronavirus infections, amplifying the state's number of positive cases, hospital admissions, ICU bed usage, and deaths until the state implemented its decentralized approach to correct the adverse COVID-19 trend.

Welcome to the world of back calculation. It's easier when you have good data!

Previously on Political Calculations

Here's our previous Arizona coronavirus coverage, with a sampling of some of our other COVID analysis!


Arizona Department of Health Services. COVID-19 Data Dashboard. [Online Application/Database].

Maricopa County Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19). COVID-19 Data Archive. Maricopa County Daily Data Reports. [PDF Document Directory, Daily Dashboard].

Stephen A. Lauer, Kyra H. Grantz, Qifang Bi, Forrest K. Jones, Qulu Zheng, Hannah R. Meredith, Andrew S. Azman, Nicholas G. Reich, Justin Lessler. The Incubation Period of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) From Publicly Reported Confirmed Cases: Estimation and Application. Annals of Internal Medicine, 5 May 2020.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19 Pandemic Planning Scenarios. [PDF Document]. Updated 10 September 2020.

COVID Tracking Project. Most Recent Data. [Online Database]. Accessed 16 October 2020.

More or Less: Behind the Stats. Ethnic minority deaths, climate change and lockdown. Interview with Kit Yates discussing back calculation. BBC Radio 4. [Podcast: 8:18 to 14:07]. 29 April 2020.

27/10/20: COVID19 Update: U.S. vs EU27

 Quick update to the U.S. vs EU27 charts for COVID19 pandemic:

Key stats:
  • The U.S. has a vastly higher death rate per 1 million population than the EU27 rate: 
    • Current death rate per 1 million of population in the U.S. is 690.0
    • Current death rate per 1 million of population in the EU27 is 370.3
    • Put differently, current U.S. death rate per capita is 86 percent above that for the EU27, though this gap is now slowly closing (it was 90% a week ago).
  • Overall counts of deaths in the U.S. are now above the EU27, since July 12. Current excess gap is at +67,604. Adjusted for population and pandemic timing differences, the gap is 114,869. 
  • The EU27 are now experiencing a second wave of infections. As the result, over October to-date, EU27 new case numbers have surpassed the U.S. in all but 2 days and deaths on 11 occasions
Couple of summary tables:

I covered a recent study from the Columbia University on U.S. excess deaths here: