Difference Makers: Santa Claus finds ways to say socially distant this holiday season

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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — It’s a different Christmas for Santa Claus this year and while kids may miss visiting him at malls and stores, he’ll miss them too.

Santa Claus is said to be 1,800 years old, he’s considered vulnerable and high-risk and he’s also a frontline worker.

He’s also a potential super-spreader event by himself.

“On average, a professional Santa will come into close personal contact with up to 5000 to 15,000 family members,” says Santa Ric Erwin, the head of the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas.

Santa Dana Friedman, who works as a lawyer during the off season at his firm Kleinberg and Friedman, says he still will be playing Santa Claus this year, but safely.

“We go to parties, take any money that we get and then we buy toys and donate the toys,” he explains.

But, not this year.

There are no Santa appearances at parties, and Santa’s workshop at the Bay Terrace Shopping Center in Bayside has been moved behind a glass partition.

“We’re trying to make up for it in different ways. That’s why we created ‘Santa’s Socially Distanced Workshop,’” Friedman said. “We teach the kids that they have to stay six feet apart, wear their masks, wash their hands, take care of themselves and at the same time, having adults donate toys that we can then take to the hospitals.”

Santa Tim Connaghan, of Riverhead, runs National Santa and has helped train 4,500 Santas and Mrs. Clauses over the years. He says he’ll be dressing up in the red suit again this year, but will be working remotely.

He plans to have online meetings with children in hospitals.

“Having a child with an illness that may be very deadly or terrible, that’s rough on the families. And then, Santa’s got to come in and smile and be happy and try to bring joy to them, but sometimes, Santa feels the emotion and knows what’s going on,” Connaghan said.

As for spread the disease when coming down the chimney? Kids can rest assured that Santa Claus is immune to coronavirus – Dr. Anthony Fauci, the most trusted source for COVID-19, has even said so himself.