The election is behind us except the counting and the lawyering, so we can now turn our attention to a genuinely critical question facing our nation: How are we going to protect Santa and all those helpers and kids from COVID-19 this holiday season?
Formal approval of a vaccine did not happen by Election Day, as President Donald Trump had hoped. Still, chances are pretty good that such approval – or at least authorization for emergency use – will arrive within a matter of weeks. That may be just enough time to start vaccinating medical personnel and other essential workers as Americans begin gathering for the holidays.
Is Santa Claus an essential worker? Ask a kid between the ages of, say, 2 and 10. Better still, ask the parents who have had to help theirs kids through a year in which school, summer camps and after-school activities largely fell by the wayside. Many parents will tell you that their kids need a visit with Santa this year more than ever before. The more observant kids would probably tell you that their parents need that photo of their offspring smiling on Kriss Kringle’s knee more than ever before, in a year that has been a grim exercise in physical and financial survival for many.
The imperative of holiday spirit was not lost on the nation’s public health leaders. The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a plan by the Department of Health and Human Services to launch an early vaccination program for Santas and their helpers just in time for the holidays. There was, dare we say, a quid pro quo attached, however. Santa was expected to tout the benefits of vaccination in exchange for getting priority access to something more therapeutic than milk and cookies. The idea was part of a broader public relations plan to bolster the benefits of a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as preventative measures like masks and social distancing. The campaign would have included public service announcements from celebrities including actor Dennis Quaid.
That plan is now under review, and the Santa portion scrapped outright, after some Grinches sniffed that it amounted to a political gift to the president. Quaid was disappointed, as was the leadership of Santa’s trade group. (Yes, of course he has one.)
Ric Erwin, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas, called the initiative’s cancelation “extremely disappointing,” the Journal reported. Erwin said that more than 100 Santas has volunteered for the HHS program. He told The Guardian, “This year Christmas is going to be more important to the American psyche than it has ever been, for the first time since the depths of the great depression or the darkest hours of world war two.” Erwin, who lost his father-in-law to COVID-19 in May, said that without a vaccine he will not take part in any events this year (save a few virtual appearances).
Telling people to get vaccinated against the virus that is upending their lives should not be a partisan matter. It is a simple sign of goodwill toward one’s fellow man, or woman, or elf. It is utterly apolitical and nondenominational. But a lot of rational thought went out the window this season ahead of this election.
So now that the election is over, what do we do about Santa Claus? Absent a vaccine, I suppose he’ll have to figure out some socially distanced ways of interacting with his constituents. Zoom will probably offer him a special rate. Here’s hoping the North Pole has decent broadband service.