Santa Claus Can't Get COVID-19, According to Fauci

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S.'s leading expert on infectious diseases, has declared Santa Claus to be immune to the coronavirus. The announcement came in a conversation with USA Today, and should come as a relief to parents struggling to explain to their kids why Uncle Ted can't come over for Christmas dinner, but it's okay for Santa Claus to sneak into the house that night and touch stuff without wiping it down. Santa -- being well over 60 years old, obese, and sometimes depicted as a smoker (those jolly pipes...!) would be at high risk for serious health problems if he contracted COVID, except for the Christmas magic protecting him.

This comes on the heels of some policymakers suggesting that Americans should minimize or avoid travel over the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. Major retailers have already either cancelled appearances by in-store Santas or started making alternate plans to take the experience virtual.

"Santa is exempt from this because Santa, of all the good qualities, has a lot of good innate immunity," Fauci told USA Today. "Santa is not going to be spreading any infections to anybody."

Some malls and retailers have elected to keep the in-person Santa Claus visits as an option, but are putting the jolly old elf behind a clear plastic screen to prevent transmission of germs to and from Santa.

Macy's, whose in-store Santa was made famous by the movie A Miracle on 34th Street, won't have him available in person for the first time in 150 years. Next week, though, they have set up a digital experience where kids can visit with Santa virtually.

The virtual experience will take place online, from November 27 through December 24. It will be more than just a visit to tell Santa what you want, with an "experience" that starts with elves and winds its way through Santa's village and workshop. And while photos with Santa have been a big moneymaker for years, this year will see selfies with Santa, which Macy's says families can download immediately. It is not entirely clear, but the phrasing makes it sound like the downloads will be free.

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Macy's also recently announced a reduced-capacity, mostly-virtual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, marking the first time in generations that the parade won't wind through crowded Manhattan streets. The Macy's Santa will be a part of that parade, even in its COVID-friendly form.

New York, where Macy's is headquartered, was one of the earliest cities to be badly hit by the pandemic, but has bounced back significantly and is seem by many as a model for COVID response in a densely-populated city. In October, New York Comic Con -- which typically takes place at the Javits Center in Manhattan -- also went virtual.