Monthly Archives: February 2021

The Ebb and Flow of COVID-19 in Arizona’s ICUs

Unlike other states coping with the winter surge in serious COVID-19 cases in their hospitals, Arizona never ran out of available Intensive Care Unit (ICU) bed space.

Here's a chart from the Arizona Department of Health Services COVID-19 data dashboard, which shows the daily percentage usage of ICU beds in the state, including for COVID-19 patients from 10 April 2020 through 20 February 2021:

Arizona Number of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Beds Available and In Use at Arizona Hospitals, with Data for COVID-19 Patients from 10 April 2020 through 20 February 2021

ICU bed usage peaked at 93% on 30 December 2020, as the number of open ICU beds in the state dropped to 121, the lowest figure recorded during the state's experience with the coronavirus pandemic.

But while this chart ably communicates the percentage share of ICU beds that were either open, used by COVID-19 patients, or by non-COVID-19 patients, it doesn't communicate the story of how Arizona was able to avoid the situation that states like California faced in running out of ICU beds during the same period of time.

The following chart reveals that part of Arizona's secret to avoiding running out of ICU bed capacity was to increase its supply of ICU beds. In the chart, we've shown the daily numbers of open ICU beds, the ICU beds used by both COVID-19 and non-COVID patients, and also the total number of ICU beds in the period from 10 April 2020 through 20 February 2021, against the backdrop of the major turning points driving the number of COVID-19 cases in Arizona.

Arizona ICU Bed Usage, 10 April 2020 through 20 February 2021

Here, we find that Arizona went from an average total of roughly 1,650 ICU beds early in the coronavirus pandemic to over 1,800 at its peak.

We also see that the number of COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients are inversely related, with one rising while the other falls, which points to another secret to Arizona's relative success in managing its limited ICU capacity. Hospital officials proactively managed non-COVID-19 patient ICU bed usage, which helped ensure ICU beds would be available for COVID patients.

At the same time, treatments available for COVID-19 patients have improved from lessons learned during the state's first wave of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infections. These improved treatments helped keep a considerable COVID-19 patients from needing to be placed in ICU beds.

That can be seen by the relative number of COVID-19 patients in Arizona hospital ICU beds. That number peaked at 970 during the state's first wave, and peaked at 1,183 during the state's second wave, a 22% increase.

By contrast, the rolling seven day moving average for the number of patients admitted to Arizona hospitals for COVID-19 peaked at 315 per day on 16 July 2020 during Arizona's first wave, and at 535 per day on 8 January 2021 during the state's second wave, a 70% increase. The much smaller percentage increase in ICU bed usage during Arizona's second wave may therefore be attributed to improved care and treatments available for COVID-19 patients at Arizona's hospitals.

The story of how Arizona's hospitals have managed its periodically worst-in-the-nation surge of COVID-19 has been absent in media reports. We thought it was time that somebody addressed even a small part of what looks to be an all-too-rare good news story.

Previously on Political Calculations

Here is our previous coverage of Arizona's experience with the coronavirus pandemic, presented in reverse chronological order.


We've continued following Arizona's experience during the coronavirus pandemic because the state's Department of Health Services makes detailed, high quality time series data available, which makes it easy to apply the back calculation method to identify the timing and events that caused changes in the state's COVID-19 trends. This section links that that resource and many of the others we've found useful throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

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

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.

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.

Australian Politics 2021-02-25 05:46:00


The media bargaining code has passed Parliament, but don't rule out another Facebook news ban yet

The highly contentious media bargaining bill, formally titled Treasury Laws Amendment (News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code) Bill 2021, passed both houses of Parliament. That means a radical piece of media reform — the bargaining code — will come into effect.

A joint statement from Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher says the code "provides a framework for good faith negotiations between the parties and a fair and balanced arbitration process to resolve outstanding disputes".

They argue it will be good for journalism. "The Code will ensure that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate, helping to sustain public interest journalism in Australia."

But before that happens — or indeed ever does — there are a few steps on the path.

News businesses that want to be paid for content that appears on search engines or social media can sign up (provided they meet some conditions, including earning $150,000 per year in revenue).

At the same time, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg must consider the question of "designating" digital platforms like Google and Facebook and the services they offer, like search or news feed.

This means he contemplates whether they hold a significant power imbalance over publishers.

If he does decide to designate one, he needs to provide it with 30 days' notice.

After that ends, the platform will be designated, meaning it must start negotiating with news businesses about how much to pay them for content through mediation, or if that fails, arbitration.

That leaves Facebook and Google powerless to an arbitrator telling them how much they should pay — a risky proposition.

At the time, Mr Frydenberg said "none of these deals would be happening if we didn't have the legislation before the Parliament".

That is, according to the Treasurer, the threat of the law prompted Google to sign deals.

Not long after, Facebook indicated it wasn't happy with the way the law was drafted by blocking news content for Australians.

It has come around this week, reversing its decision to pull news from the platform.

After discussions with Facebook, including between Mr Frydenberg and founder Mark Zuckerberg himself, the government amended the law.

The announcement coincided with an about-face from Facebook, which committed to reinstating news for Australian users.

There was even a reported deal between Facebook and Seven West Media — an indication the social media giant may be committed to the new environment.


Fight erupts over Defence moves to sack special forces whistleblowers

Whistleblowers are never popular and those who apply civilan standards to wartime are particularly reviled

A small number of special forces soldiers who blew the whistle on alleged war crimes at an official inquiry have been issued termination notices against the advice of the military watchdog.

The notices have set up a clash between the military hierarchy and the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force, whose most senior war crimes investigator, Justice Paul Brereton, recommended in his recent report that whistleblowers who had done nothing wrong should be promoted while witnesses who had honestly disclosed their own wrongdoing should not necessarily be sacked.

“It is crucial that their careers be seen to prosper,” Justice Brereton wrote last November of key witnesses who had engaged in no wrongdoing.

Others who had committed alleged war crimes themselves but had later helped the truth come out by giving truthful testimony to the inquiry, should be given special consideration, he wrote.

As the Defence Force continues to deal with the fallout of the Inspector-General’s report, delegates of the Chief of the Army Rick Burr have moved to sack at least three whistleblowers from the Special Air Service Regiment and commandos.

Asked about this process, a Defence spokesperson said: “The fact that some individuals assisted the inquiry is not disputed and regardless of any recommendation the inquiry made, it is ultimately a matter for Defence as to what if any administrative action is taken.”

The spokesperson also said that while termination notices had been issued, the responses from soldiers threatened with sacking would be considered before any final decisions were made.

Defence sources in Canberra, who were not authorised to speak publicly, confirmed that the office of the Inspector-General had been forced to issue “support” letters to help a small number of soldiers who were issued termination notices.

Multiple Defence sources aware of behind-the-scenes efforts to protect whistleblowers said at least two of the soldiers who were issued termination notices allegedly engaged in war crimes on the orders of more senior soldiers, and in both cases, these alleged crimes would never have been discovered without the disclosures, the sources said.

Some soldiers suspected of repeatedly lying about their own involvement in war crimes have also been issued termination notices, but were given no support from the Inspector-General. The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald have confirmed this by speaking to more than a dozen serving and former special forces insiders.

In November, General Burr and Defence Force Chief Angus Campbell both publicly praised the role of special forces soldiers who disclosed alleged war crimes to Justice Brereton, who led the Inspector-General’s inquiry.

Justice Brereton ultimately found that Australian special forces soldiers allegedly committed up to 39 murders and recommended that up to 19 current or former soldiers should face criminal investigation, possible prosecution and be stripped of their medals.

Justice Brereton warned in his November report that “too often ... have the careers of whistle-blowers been adversely affected”. He urged the Defence Force to promote “cleanskin” whistleblowers – those who had observed or disclosed alleged war crimes but not participated in any alleged summary executions. Chief of the Defence Force Angus Campbell is yet to act on that recommendation.

Justice Brereton also urged General Campbell and General Burr to consider special treatment for those “whose conduct is such that they cannot be rewarded by promotion, but who, having made disclosures to the Inquiry in protected circumstances when they reasonably believed they would not be used against them, and whose evidence was ultimately of considerable assistance to the Inquiry, ought not fairly be the subject of adverse administrative action”.

“Again, it will be an important signal that they have not been disadvantaged for having ultimately assisted to uncover misconduct, even though implicating themselves.”

When he announced Justice Brereton’s findings in November, General Campbell described being “deeply appreciative of people who came forward to speak with concern of what they had seen, in some cases of what they had participated in”.

“It was a very brave thing for them to do, because in the climate and the culture I have described, they would have been very concerned for doing so,” he said in comments which suggested General Campbell was aware that key whistleblowers had also disclosed their own wrongdoing.

But since then, senior officers working under General Burr’s ultimate command have, in at least three cases, disregarded the advice from the Inspector-General and issued termination notices that inform a soldier they will be sacked unless they provide mitigating circumstances.

The question of how to deal with special forces veterans who have admitted to egregious acts is not simple. Even considering their assistance to the inquiry, their alleged conduct may be so serious that it warrants dismissal. However, that is the same workplace penalty suffered by SAS and commando soldiers who have been found to have repeatedly lied about their own role in war crimes only to have it disclosed by others.

The tension comes amid confusion about how the federal police and Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions will work with the new Office of the Special Investigator, which was announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in November to help prosecute those accused of war crimes. The Office of the Special Investigator (OSI), led by former Victorian judge Mark Weinberg, is analysing what information from the Brereton inquiry can be used in criminal prosecutions and what must be withheld because it was obtained under a special power that gives immunity to those who confess to wrongdoing.

However, the OSI is at risk of replicating steps already taken by the Australian Federal Police, which was referred war crimes allegations by Justice Brereton in 2018. Federal police agents have spent almost three years investigating former special forces soldier and Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith, who is accused of multiple war crimes, and are also investigating serious allegations against another soldier known as “Soldier C”.

Shifting these investigations to a newly created bureaucracy is potentially fraught if it causes delays, as witnesses’ memories fade or suspects find opportunities to collude. It may also leave some already traumatised witnesses dealing with new investigators with whom they have no prior relationship or who have no corporate investigation knowledge.

Former SAS soldiers said federal police agents had taken statements and built rapport with key witnesses in 2018 and 2019. Official sources in Canberra said it was unclear how many federal agents would be seconded to the new office, although it would involve at least some of the AFP taskforces set up in 2018 to probe war crimes.


TGA bans Pfizer, AstraZeneca brand mentions in COVID-19 vaccine advertising

Pharmacies, GPs and healthcare organisations will be banned from displaying advertisements identifying whether they are using the Pfizer or AstraZeneca product in the national COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration, the federal body that regulates medical drugs and devices, has released strict guidelines stopping organisations from developing their own ads for coronavirus vaccines.

Businesses involved in the rollout are welcome to use government-approved materials to inform the public of vaccine availability but must be careful not to add “the tradename and/or active ingredient of the specific vaccine or other information that might enable consumers to identify the particular vaccine or the manufacturer of the vaccine”.

Individuals receiving vaccines will be able to get information on the brand of vaccine they are receiving, but providers will not be able to promote that they are using a particular brand, or compare one product over another.

It comes as the nation’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout begins, with the most vulnerable groups including front-line healthcare workers starting to receive doses of imported Pfizer vaccines this week.

Australia is taking a “portfolio approach” to vaccinating the nation, with doses set to come from a range of companies including Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Novavax should that vaccine be successful.

The many options have prompted community comparisons of the vaccines, with Pfizer’s phase 3 data suggesting 95 per cent effectiveness, while AstraZeneca’s data showed effectiveness of around 70.4 per cent.

Health minister Greg Hunt has been clear that the two vaccines currently approved for use in Australia are both safe and effective, however.

“With both the two initial vaccines, the Pfizer and the AstraZeneca vaccine, the international evidence is that the safety impact for prevention of serious illness, hospitalisation, death has been determined to be up to 100 per cent,” he told the ABC on Sunday.


Geelong police officer Sergeant David Magher found guilty on two counts of assault

A Geelong police officer has been found guilty of assault after kicking a man in custody three times to the side of his body.

Sergeant David Phillip Magher was charged with three counts of assault and suspended in 2018 by Professional Standards Command after kicking Andrew Birch as he was being transferred from a divisional van to a holding cell at Corio Police Station.

After a six-day contested hearing in the Geelong Magistrates' Court, Magistrate John Lesser found Sergeant Magher guilty of two counts of assault and dismissed a third count.

Magistrate Lesser said while in his view the first kick was "unnecessary", he could "not be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt the kicking action was not proportionate and reasonable".

"The second and third kicks stand out as of a completely different character to the first," Magistrate Lesser told the court.

"The level of force inflicted on Mr Birch [was] entirely inconsistent with the other members at the time, who had apparently obtained a measure of control of Mr Birch.

"They stood out as gratuitous and unnecessary and could not be justified as reasonable and proportionate use of force. As a result, there can be no justification for the use of force in those two kicks … which were delivered with considerable force.

"In the heat of the moment, Sergeant Magher crossed the line from the reasonable and proportionate … to the excessive and disproportionate and unjustifiable and therefore unlawful use of force on Mr Birch."

On September 21, 2018, then 36-year-old Mr Birch was arrested outside Corio Village Shopping Centre over a suspected armed robbery involving a knife and taken to Corio Police Station.

Security footage from the police station, played to the court, showed Mr Birch lunging towards Senior Sergeant Ian Kerin as he exited a police divisional van.

Sergeant Magher, who has been a police officer for more than 20 years, then kicked Mr Birch as he and Senior Sergeant Kerin pulled Mr Birch to the ground.

Mr Birch received two more kicks from Sergeant Magher as he was lying on the ground on his stomach with his handcuffed wrists pulled straight out in front of him and legs straight out behind him.

Magistrate Lesser dismissed the first kick on the grounds it could have been used as a tactic to make Mr Birch comply but ruled the two other kicks were excessive and unjustified.

Ten police witnesses were cross-examined during the hearing. All officers involved in Mr Birch's arrest agreed he resisted arrest, spat at officers, and screamed profanities.

Defence lawyer Stewart Bayles argued the kicks were "reasonable" and "proportionate" and were used by Sergeant Magher to protect the officers and himself from Mr Birch kicking out and spitting and to stop him from escaping.

In his closing remarks, Mr Bayles told the court a reasonable use of force "should not be equated with perfect or even best practice".

Crown prosecutor Sarah Thomas argued the kicks were an "excessive use of force that was not needed to seek compliance" and were instead used to punish Mr Birch for resisting arrest.

"When you view the video the inescapable conclusion is that these were three acts of gratuitous violence … toward someone who had given the police officers arresting him a hard time," she told the court.

Ms Thomas argued Mr Birch had stopped struggling "many seconds before" Sergeant Magher kicked him the second and third time.

She said all the officers, including Sergeant Magher, appeared relaxed on the CCTV as they prepared to move Mr Birch to a cell.

"The suggestion Mr Birch was on the ground for a lengthy period of time because he continued to be non-compliant, the suggestion by Mr Magher [Mr Birch] was kicking throughout, that was simply not correct," she said.

The court was told Superintendent Craig Gillard and Acting Inspector Michael Ryan reported Sergeant Magher to Professional Standards Command after Sergeant Magher admitted he used capsicum spray on Mr Birch twice during the arrest and told Acting Inspector Ryan: "I just wish I could delete the CCTV."

Mr Bayles argued his client never said that and accused Acting Inspector Ryan of lying.

Sergeant Magher will return to court later this week for sentencing.




Meanwhile, on Mars…

Having covered the state of Earth's economy yesterday, we have a unique opportunity to extend our planetary scale analysis to Mars, whose economy is starting to register signs of life after what many scientists believe is a 600 million year recession.

There is, after all, now signs of activity on the Martian surface. The following footage of some of that activity was recorded on 18 February 2021:

With the arrival of NASA's Perseverance rover, we estimate Mars' GDP to now be greater than $0, which is where Mars' economy had been stuck since the Mars Opportunity rover ceased operation in 2019, and which has been Mars' average GDP for millennia.

Although the Perseverance mission itself cost more than $2.4 billion, which does not include an additional $300 million for landing and operating a rover on the surface of Mars. Nearly all of these costs are properly counted toward Earth's GDP however, where nearly all of the mission's activity has occurred to date.

With an active mission on its surface, Mars' GDP is no longer at $0, but is now greater than $0.

Economic development plans are in the works for Mars, which may become the first planetary economy to run entirely on cryptocurrency.

The Perseverance rover will collect samples that will someday be exported to Earth, making the mission the one of the first to begin developing interplanetary trade within the solar system.

Update 25 February 2021: A panorama of Perseverance's view from the Jezero Crater (HT: Michael Wade)

How much do you suppose Mars' first produced exports will be worth?

Australian Politics 2021-02-24 10:22:00


The Brittany Higgins beatup

Bettina Arndt

What a week. My inbox is overflowing with emails from people bombarding me with commentary on the Brittany Higgins affair – comments they uniformly tell me they don’t dare express publicly.

It’s a very telling example of how readily our mainstream media hops onboard the prescribed feminist narrative, silencing anyone who challenges their view on how this should all play out.

For those of you living overseas, or under a rock, Brittany Higgins is a young woman who last week announced, through the media, that she was raped two years ago, when working as an adviser for the Defence Minister, Linda Reynolds.

As the story unfolded, it was used to mount a ferocious attack on the government. Note the timing – coinciding with the arrival of the Covid vaccine, which should have been a high point for the Coalition which is decimating the Opposition in the polls. It is also hardly a coincidence that Higgin’s current partner, David Sharaz, is a former press gallery journalist, now working for SBS and known to be a fierce critic of the government.

My correspondents, many of whom were women, made some very telling points:

“She may well be telling the truth, but the man has been convicted under ‘trial by media’. The same media who've repeatedly referred to the young woman having ‘been raped’ - an emotive term designed to ensure the man is denied the right to the assumption of innocence.”
“Yet another instance of allegation by public announcement which has the effect of creating a smear on all men who work in Parliament house. No proper investigation, no facts.”

“She was 24 years old - not some naive teenager. She was pissed out of her mind, and that’s how she excuses herself from culpability. He was likely pissed out of his mind – but no such excuses allowed there. She was counselled by the Minister to report it to police but didn’t follow through, which fact does not sit congruently with her alleged fear of losing her job. Now we can expect a huge compo claim, backed by all the woke activists. This crap makes me sick!”

“How close to the truth do you think this might be? Young woman starts out on Kingston ‘pub crawl’ with a date. Accepts drinks all night off another bloke from her workplace. She allows herself to get ‘shitfaced’...goes off with the latter in a taxi which stops at PH so bloke can duck into an office to get something. Rather than stay in taxi until he returns, she goes with him for non-work purposes. He signs her in going through security as she does not have her pass with her. They both finish up on a couch in a Minister's suite where they get it on. He leaves her to wear off the night’s activities & goes home to his own bed. She gets sprung sometime later half naked by a security guard. Caught in an extremely embarrassing situation, she makes the excuse ‘I was raped’. Now she is expecting politicians including the PM & others to salvage her dignity by doing what?”

“I notice that now, two years later, she has announced she wants a comprehensive police investigation - ‘in a timely manner as to date I have waited a long time for justice.’ Whose fault is that? Two Ministers urged her to go to the police, she made an initial report and then pulled out because she was concerned it could damage her career. And now this is the fault of the Ministers, The Prime Minister, the system, anyone but her. No one buys this twaddle except the female journalists conducting their ‘believe the victim’ witch hunt aimed at damaging the government.”

“I’ve been thinking about the Higgins business and relating it to the focus on sexual assault in universities. A major campus advocate is Sharna Bremner of "End Rape on Campus" – see below one of her recent tweets, responding to idea that police should have been called. As you can see, she advocates that police only be involved if that is emphatically chosen by the victim - part of being caring and kind. But the problem with that approach is that two years later the victim can change her mind and then the institution is placed in a difficult position - was there a cover up?”

Once again, ordinary people reach their own conclusions but in public remain silent, nervously watching what happens, even to those who do their best to dance to the feminist tune. A Prime Minister ripped apart for “victim blaming” as he bends over backwards to be sympathetic to Higgins, Linda Reynolds in tears in parliament after being savaged for doing the wrong thing when handling the complaint.

And barely a word about Higgin’s acknowledgement that she was so drunk she fell over even before going back to parliament. The rare exception was a carefully-worded comment piece by Jennifer Oriel, which laments our failure to stop “the scourge of rape” but bravely mentions a Royal Australasian College of Surgeons report showing excessive use of alcohol is related to about half of reported sexual assault cases. Drug and alcohol researchers point to large numbers of studies showing sexual assault is most likely to happen if both parties have been drinking.

Brittany Higgins has acknowledged she chose to speak out after seeing the Prime Minister congratulating Grace Tame, Australian of the Year, and a “survivor of sexual assault.” In turn, Higgins’ decision to speak out has inspired two other women to make allegations about the same man – both also claiming to be heavily intoxicated when the events took place – and now a fourth claiming he put his hand on her thigh whilst they were drinking in a favoured bar. And now there’s a petition which has attracted over 2000 testimonials from school girls who claim to have been sexually assaulted.

#Metoo seems to have fizzled out and been replaced by far more potent allegations about men’s abhorrent behaviour. 2021, the year of the rape victim.

Bettina Arndt newsletter:


Amendments forced into media bargaining code undermine core principles, reinforce need for tougher regulation

Statement attributable to Chris Cooper, executive director, Reset Australia:

We are concerned that the amendments to the media bargaining code announced today undermine some its core guiding tenets.

It is deeply concerning that a couple of powerful foreign corporations can create such a powerful bargaining position with the Australian Government by holding the distribution of Australian news and information to ransom.

The point of the code was not just to force commercial agreements between the platforms and news publishers, but rather to force agreements that are made under the code. If the platforms and news publishers simply bargain outside the code, the power imbalance will remain and publishers will lack the guarantee the arbitration measures provide under the code.

We are concerned that the Treasurer's amendment shifts power away from fair and objective rules and toward ministerial discretion. Allowing the Treasurer to decide whether or not the code should apply to any given platform at any given time creates enormous potential for platforms to use their outsize power and influence to gain favourable decisions.

Ultimately what we need most are compulsory audits of the algorithms these platforms using to ensure they are complying with this Code mitigating the broader harms we know they create.

Press release. Contact: Chris Cooper 0403 353 621


Fears illnesses other than COVID-19 will mar 2021 as RSV cases rise in south-east Queensland

The spread of a highly contagious virus with similar symptoms to COVID-19 has prompted warnings that 2021 could be a year of illness and disease as social distancing rules start to relax.

South-east Queensland is already facing a surge of the Respiratory Syncytial Virus, which primarily affects children between 18 months and two years.

Roger Faint, the head of the Sunshine Coast Local Medical Association, said paediatric wards on Queensland's Sunshine Coast had been relatively quiet up until now.

He said the increase in presentations was probably driven by children returning to school. "The hospital wards have not been busy in paediatric wards up until the last month or so," Dr Faint said. "There's been less diarrhea, less pneumonia, and less respiratory infection.

"As time has moved on, people got more relaxed — I suspect that's a large part of what's happening."

The Sunshine Coast University Hospital's emergency department recorded 12 cases of RSV so far this year. There were three during the same period last year and zero the year before.

Most children recover easily, but some suffer from a pneumonia-type infection that can put a small number in hospital.

Some of those will need to be treated in an intensive care ward and ventilated, because their breathing is affected.

Gold Coast University Hospital emergency medicine director David Green said an outbreak of RSV at his hospital was putting pressure on staff.

He said the rise of RSV cases was also impacting the Queensland Children's Hospital and others across the south-east.

Dr Faint said as Queenslanders begin to socialise and mix with confidence, and social distancing requirements continue to ease, there was a risk that 2021 could be a dangerous year for infections, including the flu.

"As those issues break down and we go back to our pre-COVID behaviours, then you're going to start seeing a spike of infections," he said.

Only 6,034 people were diagnosed with the flu in Queensland last year — a 90 per cent reduction on the year before, when 66,135 were diagnosed.

At least 37 people died from influenza in Australia in 2020, down from 921 the year before.

But Dr Faint said Australians now seemed less willing to go to work when they were sick. "Probably only 18 months ago, you were expected to tough it out and go to work if you've got a cough and a fever," he said.

"It may be that way from now on — we expect people to stay home and work from home if they've got a cough and a cold, just to protect our kids or protect each other."

Queensland Health is urging people to get inoculated once the flu vaccine becomes available. "It's vital Queenslanders book in for their flu jab this year," a spokeswoman said.

She said the best time to be vaccinated was between mid-April to the end of May, ahead of winter.


State Government would face a community backlash if parts of Moreton Island are made off limits

The trepidation so many Australians felt when that ban was placed on walking up Uluru may well have been justified.

Today we have learned that access to a section of Moreton Island in the control of an indigenous group could potentially be restricted.

The information is not yet clear cut. But we do know management of the southeast section of the island is set to be shared between the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation under a new law set to go before the Queensland Parliament.

The QYAC have been unequivocal about their determination to allow the general public to visit and holiday in the area, and urged the State Government to educate non-indigenous people about the reality of native title laws.

“Native title is not accompanied by education or information for the general public, and other users tend to have concerns which are not correct at law and often are very damaging to Aboriginal people,’’ a spokeswoman has said.

But the QPWS have also been unequivocal in their negotiations with tourism operators active in the area _ closure of areas of Cape Moreton are “on the table’’ under this proposal.

It was in November 2019 that the Federal Court formally recognised indigenous ownership of Moreton Island.

Non indigenous Queenslanders have constantly been reassured that native title does not mean they will be barred from the island. But the new legal regime means indigenous owners could develop a monopoly control of tourism in that area recognised by law as in control of native title holders.

That suggests, at the very least, a range of areas could be placed off limits to the general public for traditional or spiritual reasons.

The trek up Uluru was something many ageing Australians had on their “bucket list’’ until October 2019 when it was banned - a ban which appeared to be accepted by the majority, even if some did so grudgingly.

The State Government must be aware that any similar restrictions on access to Moreton Island would not be taken so lightly.

Uluru is thousands of kilometres away in a desert environment. Moreton is a boat ride away, and a regular destination for thousands of Queenslanders, many of whom cherish a lifelong connection to the island.

And if the government is hoping a four-year term is a comfortable enough buffer for the outrage to die down until the next state election, it doesn’t quite understand the nature of its own electorate.




The Global Double Dip Coronavirus Recession Deepens

After new rounds of government-mandated lockdowns sent large portions of the global economy into a double dip recession in December 2020, the global economy continued cooling in January 2021 as the recessionary impact of the lockdowns deepened.

We can see that happening in the falling rate of change of atmospheric carbon dioxide measured at the remote Mauna Loa Observatory. The following chart shows that latest trend in the context of the history of the metric since January 1960.

Trailing Twelve Month Average of the Year-Over-Year Change in Parts Per Million of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, January 1960-January 2021

In addition to the earlier European government-imposed lockdowns, the data for Janaury 2021 is now including some of the impact of regional lockdowns in both China and Japan, and also states like California in the U.S.

Increasingly unpopular in addition to being economically disruptive, many government officials in these regions have begun easing their lockdown measures. Combined with declining numbers of cases in much of the world, we anticipate the relative impact of the double dip coronavirus recession will be much smaller than the first wave.

We estimate that first wave cost the global economy some $12 trillion in lost GDP in 2020. We'll take a closer look at how much more global GDP has been lost to government-imposed coronavirus lockdowns in our next update to this series to find out how much the second lockdown recessions are harming Earth's economy.

Previously on Political Calculations

Here is our series quantifying the negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the Earth's economy, presented in reverse chronological order.