Outside Looking In
Jonathan Yuhas, a meteorologist with KSTP-TV, has been a good friend of mine for several years. He has contributed to several weather-related stories for the Mascot the past few years.
Yuhas has closely followed the COVID-19 pandemic, and has some interesting observations regarding how the weather could affect it.
The question posed to him was:
Will the virus slow down or go away when temperatures get warmer and we have more sunshine, as ultra-violet light is known to kill bacteria and viruses?
“Again, no one knows yet if COVID-19 will go away quickly in warmer weather, but one interesting thing to look at is how COVID-19 has spread,” he said. “It is believed COVID-19 somehow was picked up through bat guano around Wuhan, China back in December/January.
“When COVID-19 started spreading in Wuhan, the outside temperatures were mainly between 40 and 50 degrees, which would be similar to conditions in the caves in China where the bats live. The caves have no sunlight and an average year-round temperature ranges from 40 to 50 degrees.
“When COVID-19 started spreading, it was in areas mostly with a temperature range of 40 to 50 degrees -- Milan (Italy), London, Paris, parts of Germany, and areas of Asia.
“The initial concentration in the United States was in the Pacific Northwest, which at this time of the year would see the 40 to 50 degree temperature range and low amounts of sunlight.
“All of the cases in New England, as well, would have the 40 to 50 degree temperature range and quite a bit of cloudiness. The cases in Florida and Texas were from people who traveled overseas, and in California, many people contracted COVID-19 in other countries or on cruise ships.”
That was the beginning of the spreading across the country. As of Sunday, the number of COVID-19 cases in Minnesota had increased to 35.
Because the number keeps rising, Gov. Tim Walz called for school closings across the state beginning Wednesday.
Yuhas said it is too early to determine if COVID-19 will begin decreasing as temperatures warm up.
“If the 40 to 50 degree temperature environment is how COVID-19 spreads so fast, people in Minnesota should know the average high temperature now is 40 degrees and reaches 50 degrees on April 1.
“Then it warms to 60 degrees by mid-April, along with a much higher sun angle, meaning COVID-19 could spike the next four weeks and then start going down in the warmer and sunnier weather. But caution, of course, as this right now is only a possible theory.”
Hard calls to make
Over my many years working in the print media, I have had to make some difficult calls to family members who have lost a loved one, individuals battling cancer, or to families who lost their home in a fire.
In sports, I can think of no harder call I’ve had to make than this past weekend when I visited with Minneota senior Morgan Hennen and varsity girls basketball coach Chad Johnston following the cancellation of the state tournament.
I had planned to write a feature on each of them for the State Tournament Special Section, figuring the team had a good chance to repeat as state champions. Hennen is the lone senior on the team and Johnston has been a perennial winner as coach of both football and girls basketball.
As I began calling Hennen, I was almost hoping she wouldn’t answer, even though I knew as a reporter the news value of her reaction to the coronavirus threat that slammed the brakes on her season and career as a basketball player for Minneota.
She was understanding and strong throughout the conversation. She admitted crying a lot when the news broke, and that an interview soon after with another media member was difficult, but that she had come to understand the situation.
Johnston, whom players and coaches refer to as “J”, has been going through difficult times recently with his 13-year-old niece from Omaha recently losing her battle with cancer. And now he had to deal with informing his team that they would not be able to fulfill their dream of winning a second straight state title.
All activities halted
The girls basketball team wasn’t the only Minneota team to have their stellar season suddenly halted because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The robotics team, who was part of a three-school alliance that captured the regional title in Duluth recently, will not be going to the national competition in Detroit as originally scheduled because of the coronavirus threat.
The Minneota speech team, which has become an area force with a high ceiling, had its meet at SMSU over the weekend cancelled, while the section meet has been put on hold and could possibly be cancelled.
Also, the FCCLA State Convention, scheduled to begin March 26, has been postponed. The Minneota girls are a perennial state and national power.
Spring sports teams, as well as all other sporting events at every age level and extra-curricular activities, have been put on hold and it is uncertain if or when they will resume.
Life is much bigger than sports or team activities such as these. Right now, that is where our focus must be. But our students also benefit greatly from being involved in these types of activities. We can only hope this is a temporary shutdown.