Santa might not be coming to town.
That’s because many Santa Claus entertainers have decided to forego this holiday season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hiresanta.com founder Mitch Allen told Insider his company has seen a 121% jump in the amount of Santa requests this year compared to the past two years. However, the amount of available Santas is down 10% because some have sadly died from COVID, others are choosing not to participate to protect their health and some have simply retired from the seasonal gig.
Allen told the Washington Post, “Several hundred Santas and Mrs Clauses, over the last 18 months, have passed away, and it’s just a tragedy. (He noted that COVID is not the cause of all the deaths he’s aware of.)
“Hundreds of people a day have been reaching out to us,” he said, per the Post. “We always sell out on weekends, but normally it’s after Thanksgiving.”
Allen said there are about 15% fewer Santas this year, yet the demand is 120% over pre-pandemic levels.
Many Santas are still apprehensive about having young children who aren’t vaccinated sit on their laps.
And on a grimmer note, Allen said many of Santa’s helpers died over the past year due to the coronavirus.
“Unfortunately, we’ve lost a number of terrific Santa Claus entertainers over the last few months, primarily due to COVID,” Allen said. “As you can imagine, our Santas are in a high-risk group for a negative outcome if they get COVID. So, we had a number of Santas that passed away over the last 18 months.”
Age and weight tend to put Santa at high risk for severe illness from the coronavirus.
Allen added that some Santas contracted COVID-19 and are still dealing with the long-term effects. He said they have no additional Santas for the first two weekends in December.
Many Santas are doing virtual visits again, he said.
Dalani Gray, who owns Portland Santa, said they are still “on edge” because of COVID-19 cases. As a result, they are mainly doing virtual visits with their Santas this year. They will not be in any local malls or big events, she said.
Over the years, Gray has had a few Santas retire, but age is the main concern with her Santas when it comes to COVID-19.
Last year, many mall owners banned kids from sitting on Santa’s knee.
Instead, some owners required kids to tell Santa what they want for Christmas from six feet away, and sometimes from behind a sheet of plexiglass.
Santa and his visitors also wore face masks, often even while posing for photos. And some malls put faux gift boxes and other decorations in front of Saint Nick to block kids from charging toward him.