A Santa Tested Positive for COVID-19—And May Have Exposed 50 Kids

SELF – Men’s and Women Health & Fitness

Thanks to the pandemic, holiday festivities are particularly fraught this year—especially if they’re happening in person. Case in point: A Santa tested positive for COVID-19 just two days after taking photos with about 50 kids in a small town in Georgia.

“On Thursday December 10th the Long County Chamber of Commerce held its annual Christmas parade in Ludowici. The event was followed by a tree lighting and an opportunity for children to visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus at the Old Well. The events were well attended and roughly 50 children had their picture taken with Santa,” Robert D. Parker, chairman of the Long County Board of Commissioners, wrote in a statement on Facebook. “It has now been brought to the attention of the Chamber of Commerce, as well as my office, that after the event both ‘Santa’ and ‘Mrs. Claus’ were tested for the COVID 19 virus and both received positive test results. They were not displaying any symptoms at the time of the event.”

Parker went on to say that he’s known ‘Santa’ and ‘Mrs. Claus’ his entire life, and he “can assure everyone that they would have never knowingly done anything to place any children in danger.”

It’s not clear if anyone wore masks at the gathering or if any social distancing rules were in effect. It’s also possible that the two contracted COVID-19 at the event and then tested positive after that. But because people can spread COVID-19 even if they don’t have any noticeable symptoms, this series of events is definitely concerning. Children can get and spread COVID-19, but they tend to have mild symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explain. In rare cases, though, children can still develop severe COVID-19 complications that require hospitalization, as well as a rare condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C).

And we do know that attending any type of in-person gathering is risky this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic—including visiting Santa. These types of gatherings can be made a little safer with the use of masks, outdoor environments, a small number of guests, and social distancing, the CDC advises (CDC). But it’s even safer to keep celebrations virtual by decorating, baking, or opening presents with friends and family over video chat.

When it comes to visiting Santa Claus, the CDC recommends scheduling a virtual visit to the North Pole or a video chat with Santa instead. Or, if you want to see Santa in person, wear a mask, opt for an outdoor experience, and stay socially distanced.

If you are planning to travel or spend time with people outside of your household for the holidays, it’s important to get tested before and after doing so. You should get tested one to three days before you leave and get tested again three to five days after you come back, the CDC says. But even the best COVID-19 tests can miss positive cases, especially early in the infection. So it’s important to remember that testing is not a substitute for social distancing and wearing a mask—even if you get a negative result.

Having to skip holiday gatherings—along with plenty else this year—is, understandably, upsetting. But it’s really the safest thing to do right now. And with such high numbers of coronavirus cases in the country right now, it’s more important than ever to continue to use the public health tools we know can help stop the spread of COVID-19, including social distancing, avoiding crowds, wearing masks, and getting tested when it’s appropriate.

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