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Santa Claus may be spreading more than Christmas cheer this year.
A Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus in Georgia heard the Christmas wishes of more than 50 kids last Thursday during the county’s annual Christmas Parade and tree lighting. Two days later, they both tested positive for COVID-19.
“They were not displaying any symptoms at the time of the event,” Robert D. Parker, chairman of the Long County Board of Commissioners in Ludowici, Georgia, wrote in a Facebook post Monday morning. “I have personally known both ‘Santa’ and ‘Mrs. Claus’ my entire life and I can assure everyone that they would have never knowingly done anything to place any children in danger. They have both filled these roles for many years, and bringing joy to children during the holidays is one of the most important parts of their lives.”
The official said that families who may have taken the virus home after the festivities last week should follow CDC guidelines, which include avoiding contact with others, staying at home for two weeks, and monitoring for worsening symptoms. The parent coordinator for the county’s schools told ABC affiliate WJCL that students that were exposed to the virus at the event will be asked to stay home and attend classes virtually until after the upcoming holiday break.
Despite a possible major outbreak after the event, Parker tried to reassure residents that the county’s chamber of commerce made the right move holding the annual event in the middle of a pandemic.
“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,” Parker said, adding that both of his own kids attended the event and spoke with Santa. “I want to further emphasize that no children were forced to attend the events and that choice was left solely in the hands of their parents.”
This isn’t the first time a visit from Santa may have spread the virus. Just last week, a man playing Santa Claus at a Belgium nursing home infected at least 75 people infected after testing positive for COVID-19, according to VRT News. Several santas in states hardest hit by the coronavirus have even died, according to NPR.
As the holiday season approaches, continuing the tradition of Santa has been a tricky prospect. Some shopping malls around the county have resorted to creating safer ways of letting kids get FaceTime with St. Nick, including letting kids talk to the man from behind a sheet of plexiglass or scheduling Zoom calls with families.