Political Calculations
Unexpectedly Intriguing!
January 21, 2021

The last two weeks of COVID-19 data from Arizona suggests the state's second wave of cases has peaked and has begun receding.

The origins of that second wave can be traced back to political campaign activities held throughout the political swing state during the two weekends prior to the 3 November 2020 election. These events triggered an explosion in new coronavirus infections well above and beyond what had previously been a slow and steady rise in the number of coronavirus infections following the September 2020 reopening of high exposure risk businesses in the state.

Arizona's COVID-19 cases grew rapidly as new infections spread beyond the participants in these activities. But that began to change after news reports began focusing on the surge of COVID-19 patients at Arizona Intensive Care Units in early December 2020. We think those reports prompted Arizonans to resume social distancing and good hygiene practices they had previously adopted during the state's first COVID-19 wave in the early summer of 2020, which succeeded in slowing the rate of growth of new cases.

But it wasn't until Christmas came and went, and with it, the period where holiday-related shopping activities and social gatherings contributed to the ongoing spread of COVID-19 cases, that the second wave of COVID-19 cases in Arizona crested and began to recede. At least, that's what the data reported over the last two weeks indicates, which the charts showing Arizona's data for newly confirmed cases by sample collection date, daily ICU bed usage, deaths by death certificate date, and new hospital admissions, covering the period from 3 March 2020 through 19 January 2021. Although the lag from exposure to change in trend for each chart is different, the back calculation method for each confirms the timing of significant events for the progression of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infections in Arizona. [Please click on the preceding links or the following images to access full size versions of the charts.]

Arizona COVID-19 Confirmed Cases by Sample Collection Date, 3 March 2020 - 19 January 2021
Arizona COVID-19 ICU Bed Usage, 3 March 2020 - 19 January 2021
Arizona COVID-19 Deaths by Death Certificate Date, 3 March 2020 - 19 January 2021
Arizona COVID-19 New Hospital Admissions, 3 March 2020 - 19 January 2021

Of these charts, only the chart showing Arizona's ICU Bed Usage is fully current. Data for the other three charts are incomplete, where the most recent three weeks shown will be subject to revision during the next few weeks, especially for the most recent dates indicated on the charts.

Notes of Interest

Readers following this series will catch that we're no longer indicating "Event J" on these latest charts. Event J refers to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey's 3 December 2020 restriction on high-attendance events, which proved to have little-to-no impact on the trends for COVID-19 cases in the state.

We are however showing T* to indicate the timing of the Thanksgiving holiday and X* to indicate the Christmas holiday. These events, in and of themselves, had a very noticeable impact on whether Arizonan's sought to be tested for coronavirus infections, which shows up in the chart for confirmed cases. Here, it appears many Arizonans who became sick during these periods delayed seeking COVID-19 tests during the holidays and subsequent weekends, waiting until the following Mondays to be tested.

By contrast, there are slight dips in the data for new hospital admissions and for deaths in the lagging periods associated with the holidays, but these don't greatly deviate from the overall trends.

We've attributed the deceleration and peak in Arizona's second COVID-19 wave to increased social distancing and hygiene practices (standing apart in public, washing hands, etc.). Reports indicate Arizonans have generally maintained a high level of face mask-wearing since the state's first surge in cases in the early summer of 2020, while social distancing and hygiene practices waned. Overall, the evidence suggests social distancing and good hygiene are more effective in avoiding new COVID-19 infections than face masks alone. But we have to emphasize again, the best way to avoid COVID-19 is to avoid contact with political activists.

Unless something changes, we anticipate the next update to this series will confirm Arizona has entered a downward trend for coronavirus infections.

Previously on Political Calculations

We've been covering Arizona's experience with the coronavirus pandemic since the state first became a national hotspot early in the summer of 2020. Here's our previous Arizona coronavirus coverage presented in reverse chronological order, with a sampling of some of our other COVID analysis!


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].

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. https://doi.org/10.7326/M20-0504.

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 15 December 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.

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January 20, 2021

From time to time, we like to present a snapshot of what the future for the S&P 500's quarterly dividends per share looks like. Here is what investors were expecting as of the close of trading on Friday, 15 January 2021, just ahead of the presidential transition in the United States.

Past and Projected Quarterly Dividends Futures for the S&P 500, 2019-Q4 through 2021-Q4, Snapshot on  15 January 2021

As the Operation Warp Speed rollout of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus vaccines continues, and as several state and local governments come to recognize their lockdown policies are not beneficial, we would anticipate the projections of future quarterly dividends will increase as the business outlook improves. But we'll see what happens as the year progresses!


CME Group. S&P 500 Quarterly Dividend Index Futures. [Online database]. Accessed 15 January 2021.


The CME Group's S&P 500 dividend futures are based on futures contracts that cover the period of time through the third Friday of the month ending their indicated quarter, when they expire. By contrast, Standard & Poor reports the amount of dividends paid out per share over the course of a calendar quarter, which is why these two sources often indicate different values.

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January 19, 2021

Two weeks ago, the U.S. stock market seemed taken with the idea of the Biden administration's promise of trillions in new spending for coronavirus pandemic relief, sending the S&P 500 (Index: SPX) to a new record high.

But that changed last week, after the incoming Biden admininstration announced its stimulus package would total $1.9 trillion, which requires rounding upward to count as "trillions". Worse, the details of the proposal indicate that much of these funds will be spent wastefully. The measure also aims to boost the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, which while expected to benefit 1.0 million Americans, would contribute to a projected loss of 1.3 million jobs.

Overall, investors were left with the disappointing impression that the Biden stimulus will do little to improve the nation's economic situation, which increases the uncertainty that it can pass in its current form.

That increase in uncertainty led investors to shift a portion of their forward looking focus of investors from 2021-Q2 inward to the current quarter of 2021-Q1, sending stock prices down from the previous week after the details of the Biden stimulus were announced. The latest update to the alternative futures chart based on the dividend futures-based model shows that shift.

Alternative Futures - S&P 500 - 2020Q4 - Standard Model (m=+1.5 from 22 September 2020) - Snapshot on 15 Jan 2021

In other news, the minions of the Federal Reserve were especially active in trying to shape future expectations, which for them, means little-to-no change in monetary policy in 2021. Here are the headlines we noted for their market-moving potential during the second week of January 2021.

Monday, 11 January 2021
Tuesday, 12 January 2021
Wednesday, 13 January 2021
Thursday, 14 January 2021
Friday, 15 January 2021

Want a second opinion on what the big news items of the past week were? Barry Ritholtz delivers the positives and negatives he found in the markets and economics news the way only he can!

Also, if you ever need to put a picture together of events that influenced the U.S. stock market, check out the earlier entries of our S&P 500 chaos series. Political Calculations is your curated resource for market history in near-real time!

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January 15, 2021

What do modern superheroes wear under their costumes?

We know that's an odd question, seeing as many superheroes in the comics follow the tradition of wearing their underwear on the outside of their outfits. However, Katherine P. Rutherford's 2004 invention of a Ballistic Resistant Body Covering would appear to provide a new reason to reconsider the question.

At least, that's what the IIE team cannot help but think after reading the description of the preferred embodiment in U.S. Patent 6,745,394, which we also canot help but think is clearly meant to appeal to any current day superhero (wink, wink):

In use, the device 10 is worn on the body of the user and the various portions coupled together. The device protects the body from ballistic missiles over a large portion of the body including the torso, groin and neck area.

As to a further discussion of the manner of usage and operation of the present invention, the same should be apparent from the above description. Accordingly, no further discussion relating to the manner of usage and operation will be provided.

Of course, the thing that really sells Rutherford's invention can be found in Figure 1 of the patent, where our well-protected prospective superhero oozes with enough superconfidence to project the phrase: "Well, hello there!"

U.S. Patent Number 6,745,394 Figure 1

Rutherford leaves it to the prospective wearer to determine how her invention should be worn. Whether that's over or under your regular costume is entirely up to you.

Inventions in Everything: The Archives

Ready to sample more of the most creative designs and patents the Inventions in Everything team has explored? Our archives celebrate inventions ranging from the whimsical to the inspired in reverse chronological order!


January 14, 2021

Two months ago, we were concerned the global economy was teetering on a double dip recession.

Now, armed with measurements of the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide measured monthly at the remote Mauna Loa Observatory through December 2020, we can confirm the double dip has arrived. The rate at which CO₂ is accumulating in the Earth's atmosphere decreased in December, following two months of upticks indicating a recovery in the global economy.

You can see the reversal for yourself in this chart showing the trailing twelve month average of the year-over-year change of the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, which provides a general overview of this metric since January 1960.

Trailing Twelve Month Average of Year-Over-Year Change in Parts per Million of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide, January 1960 - December 2020

The December 2020 downtick follows the COVID-19 lockdowns imposed by several governments in Europe beginning in September 2020, which have continued through the present.

Perhaps more notable is what the data does not yet show. The data through December 2020 does not show the impact of the economically harmful lockdowns imposed by states like California in the U.S., and it does not yet show the effects of China's latest large-scale lockdowns and in Japan.

Lower CO₂ levels related to the coronavirus pandemic may be offset by considerably colder temperatures the northern hemisphere. The colder-than-usual weather is driving increased coal burning in China and greater natural gas consumption elsewhere, which will mask some of the decline from reduced economic activity caused by COVID lockdowns.

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.

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About Political Calculations

Welcome to the blogosphere's toolchest! Here, unlike other blogs dedicated to analyzing current events, we create easy-to-use, simple tools to do the math related to them so you can get in on the action too! If you would like to learn more about these tools, or if you would like to contribute ideas to develop for this blog, please e-mail us at:

ironman at politicalcalculations.com

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