Is COVID going to put mall Santas out of a job?

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INDIANAPOLIS — With COVID-19 cases on the rise again in Indiana, will that put Santa on his own naughty list? Health experts say it just may.

“This is a hard conversation to have. Recommendations we have are to limit holiday gatherings. We are expected to see rapid growth of this virus,” details Kristen Kelley, Nursing Director of Infection Prevention at Indiana University (IU) Health, “Maybe we can’t see Santa, but we can surely write him some letters.”

The state is already cracking down on social gatherings in each county. This comes as malls begin to set up their spaces for children to take pictures with Santa. Some malls are getting creative by putting up plexiglass barriers between Santa and the children. It still allows youngsters to get their picture taken with old St. Nick, but at the same time it prevents transmission.

“A lot of places have just said we aren’t going bother,” says Ball State Professor of Free Enterprise Steve Horwitz, “Other places have said reservations only.”

IU health suggests families make this tough situation fun by brainstorming a list of COVID-19 friendly holiday activities to check off.

“There are such things like drive-thru Christmas lights, where you can stay in your own family pod,” lists Kelley, “I think those outdoor activities really hold.”

Being a Santa can be a lucrative, seasonal side job for some. A reduction in Santas would mean a loss of jobs. This also includes people like photographers who are already hurting from wedding postponements or cancellations.

“A lot of the mall Santas can make $10,000 to $12,000 in a season. For a lot of folks that’s good money. Maybe a retiree, that’s some nice extra pocket change to have,” adds Horwitz, “Does seem like a small price to pay for one season, if we can get back to near normal come 2021. No one wants Black Friday to become the Black Plague, and no one wants to be the site of an outbreak.”

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