SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. — Despite what you might think, Santa Claus is not immune to COVID-19.
But to keep up with tradition, some stores and malls have set up reservation systems and guidelines so guests can still read their lists to Santa while staying safe.
"I would say a lot has changed and at the same time, at the core of it, getting the opportunity to see Santa is still the same," said Arden Fair Mall senior marketing manager Nathan Spradlin.
Starting Friday, Nov. 20, Arden Fair Mall will welcome guests to visit Santa, but it will be a different kind of setup than in past years. Santa and his crews will be tested for Covid-19 before entering the building. Social distancing and wearing masks will be required and guests will have to make a reservation to see Santa. Spradlin said the reservation process will cut down on the typically long lines.
"This year, we just had to accept that we weren't going to be able to have that many people see Santa," Spradlin explained. "But we wanted those who came to see Santa to have a healthy and positive experience."
One family at a time, guests with reservations will meet with Santa from behind a barrier that will distance everyone six feet. After chatting with Saint Nick, families can sit on a box in front of him to take a photo. Between visits, staff will disinfect all areas of contact and when shifts end and start for the day, Spradlin said cleaning crews would deep clean the entire set.
Arden isn’t the only place pivoting for Santa visits in pandemic times. Bass Pro Shop will have a partition between Santa and guests, along with temperature checks upon arrival. Westfield Galleria in Roseville also switched to a reservation system, similar to Arden Fair Mall's.
"I hope guests understand all the requirements that are involved here," Spradlin explained. "We want to make sure this holiday is a healthy experience for our guests, our employees at the mall and for Santa, because he's got a lot of stuff to do and we want to make sure that he stays healthy.