COVID-19 takes its toll on Santa Claus

PORTLAND – The supply chain problem has affected Santa Claus. Literally.

As we rapidly approach the holiday season, there is a shortage of Santa across the country. Santas books, also known as Santa’s friends or helpers, for events across the country.

Chief Elf Mitch Allen said there are about 15% fewer Santas this year, yet demand is 120% above pre-pandemic levels.

There are many reasons, he said, including aging, but COVID-19 appears to be the main culprit.

Many Santas are still concerned about having young children who are not vaccinated sitting on their laps. On a grimmer note, Allen said that many of Santa’s helpers have died over the past year due to the coronavirus.

“Unfortunately, we have lost several fantastic Santa Claus artists in the last few months, mainly due to COVID,” Allen said. “As you can imagine, our Santas are in a high-risk group for a negative result if they contract COVID. So we had several Santas who passed away in the last 18 months. ”

Age and weight tend to put Santa at high risk for serious illness from the coronavirus.

Allen added that some Santas contracted COVID and are still dealing with the long-term effects. He said they don’t have any additional Santas for the first two weekends in December.

Many Santas are doing virtual tours again, he said.

Dalani Gray, who owns Portland Santa, said they are still “on edge” due to COVID cases. As a result, this year they are mainly doing virtual tours with their Santas. They won’t be in any local mall or big events, he said.

Over the years, Gray has had a few retired Santas, but age is the main concern regarding COVID with his Santas. The few events they have planned will involve many COVID safety measures, including social distancing and vaccination requirements for adults.

Last year, many mall owners banned children from sitting on Santa’s lap.

Instead, some homeowners demanded that children tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas from six feet away, and sometimes behind a sheet of Plexiglas.

Santa and his visitors also wore face masks, often even while posing for photos. And some malls place fake gift boxes and other decorations in front of Saint Nick to prevent children from approaching him.