Mall Santas take on pandemic armed with plexiglass barriers, sanitation elves, and snow globe bubbles

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By RADIO.COM

Santa Claus may be coming to town, but he's not arriving without his own personal bubble to keep him safe from the coronavirus.

All across the country, mall Santas are taking extra precautions to make sure they don't get sick or infect others this holiday season. State by state, malls are coming up with crafty ways for kids to sit on Santa's metaphoric lap while listing off their Christmas dreams.

In Richmond, Santa is positioned inside of an acrylic snow globe while Colorado malls have him seated behind a plexiglass barrier. Many locations are using their on-staff elves to help sanitize between visits, the Washington Post reports.

Many locations are requiring reservations, temperature checks, and mask wearing while stories like Macy's are suspending Santa visits entirely or moving them to a virtual model.

Mitchell Allen, owner of the staffing firm Hire Santa, said, "Everything is different this year, but people are finding a way to keep that traditional Santa experience. It's unexpected, to be honest."

And with many Santa actors in their 70s and 80s with pre-existing health conditions, the need for a safe Santa experience for children is even more dire.

Mark Brenneman, 70, who has played Santa for nearly five decades, is determined to make the experience worthwhile. "Santa can't give out hugs or candy canes this year, but people still want to see him," he said. "They want hope. They want normal."

More often than not, families are opting for more personalized and small Santa visits with companies and household members opting for Santa appearances at events and even home visits over the line at the mall.

Neiman Marcus has gotten particularly crafty, offering up curbside delivery of gifts from Santa himself, bringing purchases directly to customers' cars.

However, despite the creative ways to keep Santa and children alike safe during visits, these visits are expected to decline about 65% from last year. More than 10 million families participated in a Santa experience last year.

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