Mall Santa visits go virtual during pandemic-afflicted holiday

Santa Claus gets a pandemic makeover

Malls across America are making photos with Santa Claus socially distanced and contactless amid the coronvirus pandemic. FOX Business’ Jeff Flock with more.

As families find themselves staying home, instead of going home, for the holidays, cities across the country are turning to alternative methods to celebrate a Christmas curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans.

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Neighborhood light shows can be seen only from a car window, and tree lightings are held with limited audiences to limit the spread of the virus.


The highly anticipated trip to see Santa Claus — also known by the name Kris Kringle — as pictured in the 1983 classic "A Christmas Story" is no exception.

As COVID-19 cases in the United States continue to spike while the very first vaccinations are given to high-risk groups, elves and the big man himself are visiting with children from places like Routt County, Colo., Alexandria, Minn., Irvine, Ky., Olmsted Falls, Ohio, Presque Isle, Maine, and Show Low, Ariz.

In order to comply with health restrictions, Santa is sitting behind a plastic sheet or waving from car windows.

In Seattle, Santa was ensconced in a giant plastic bubble while kids showed him their Christmas wish lists, and Georgia mall Santas donned face shields and masks.

Many of the jolly old elves have gone not only socially distant but virtual. They're on Facebook Live and Zoom, calling and responding to children using videoconferencing tools.

Oklahoma's Cordell Chamber of Commerce hosted an interactive event at the beginning of the month where Santa read the classic "Twas the Night Before Christmas."

As NPR reported on Tuesday, the prerequisites for most Santas are to be both overweight and older  two attributes that put the men at increased risk for COVID-19.

Santa Claus wears a face mask while waiting for children to visit in Park Meadows Mall Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020, in Lone Tree, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas (IBRBS) told the news outlet that at least three of the group's 2,200 members have already died from COVID-19.

While some play Santa purely for charity or the spirit of the season, others rely on the holiday to provide income  a gig that has become another casualty of the economic meltdown that accompanied the public health crisis.

Ludowici, Ga., experienced the danger involved in in-person events when pictures with Mr. and Mrs. Claus exposed an estimated 50 children to the virus.

Although not exhibiting symptoms, the two entertainers tested positive for the virus two days after the Long County Chamber of Commerce’s parade and tree-lighting ceremony.

Since then, Long County Schools have asked parents to keep home any students who were potentially exposed until after the holiday break.

Following the incident, Long County Commissioners Chairman Robert Parker said the festivities could continue.


“While this event was not put on by the City of Ludowici or the Long County Board of Commissioners, it was well-attended by our public officials, and I believe I speak for the majority of them in saying that we still stand by the decision of the Chamber to move forward with these holiday traditions and to bring some sense of normalcy to these trying times,” he told WSAV-TV.

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