Coronavirus prevents crowds from seeing Punxsutawney Phil

Groundhog Club co-handler John Griffiths, (left), holds Punxsutawney Phil, the weather prognosticating groundhog, during the 133rd celebration of Groundhog Day on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa. Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. Phil's handlers said that the groundhog has forecast an early spring. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Groundhog Club co-handler John Griffiths, (left), holds Punxsutawney Phil, the weather prognosticating groundhog, during the 133rd celebration of Groundhog Day on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa. Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. Phil's handlers said that the groundhog has forecast an early spring. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

The coronavirus pandemic means Groundhog Day won’t be the same in a Pennsylvania town long associated with a prognosticating rodent.

Organizers said Punxsutawney Phil will predict whether spring will come early or winter will last longer in 2021 without the usual crowds who gather at Gobbler’s Knob, a tiny hill just outside the town about 65 miles (105 kilometers) northeast of Pittsburgh.

Phil and his inner circle on Feb. 2 will deliver the prediction virtually by means of a live internet stream and website, organizers said. “But it has been determined that there will not be any in person attendance or guests on the grounds as the potential Covid risks to overcome are too great,” they said.

Organizers will continue to monitor the pandemic.

“It is very unlikely, but if it is determined that we can logistically and safety hold any in person activities related to Groundhog Day, we will make that information available if developed.”

The annual event has its origin in a German legend that says if a furry rodent casts a shadow on Feb. 2, winter continues. If not, spring comes early.

Records dating to 1887 show Phil has predicted longer winters more than 100 times. The 2020 forecast called for an early spring.

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