Coronavirus can’t stop NORAD from tracking Santa this Christmas

Coronavirus can't stop NORAD from tracking Santa this Christmas

The pandemic’s changed everything, but you can still give Santa a ring.

North America’s premier Kris Kringle tracker will follow Santa Claus on Dec. 24, slightly tweaking the 65-year-old tradition for coronavirus concerns.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command has announced that NORAD will track St. Nick on Christmas Eve but can’t promise that believers will get to chat live with a rep for the jolly old man in red.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command has announced that NORAD will track St. Nick on Christmas Eve but can’t promise that believers will get to chat live with a rep for the jolly old man in red. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

The North American Aerospace Defense Command has announced that NORAD will track St. Nick on Christmas Eve but can’t promise that believers will get to chat live with a rep for the jolly old man in red. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

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In years past, about 150 volunteers and military members would field calls from kids eager to see how close Santa was to home during two-hour shifts in a conference room Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, the Associated Press reports. According to the outlet, about 1,500 people would ultimately answer over 130,000 phone calls over 20 hours, starting at 6 a.m. ET on Christmas Eve.

To heed safety restrictions amid the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19, the number of call center volunteers has been drastically slashed; NORAD predicts that there will be fewer than 10 people per shift.

“We understand this is a time-honored tradition, and we know undoubtedly there is going to be some disappointment,” said NORAD spokesman Preston Schlachter. “But we’re trying to keep it safe for everyone involved.” (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

“We understand this is a time-honored tradition, and we know undoubtedly there is going to be some disappointment,” said NORAD spokesman Preston Schlachter. “But we’re trying to keep it safe for everyone involved.” (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

“We understand this is a time-honored tradition, and we know undoubtedly there is going to be some disappointment,” said NORAD spokesman Preston Schlachter. “But we’re trying to keep it safe for everyone involved.”

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With that being said, some lucky callers might still get to speak with a Santa rep live after dialing the toll-free 1-877-Hi-NORAD on the day before Christmas, while others will receive a recorded update on St. Nick’s current location.

The Associated Press reports that NORAD officials have strategized “for weeks” on how the Christmas ritual could continue during these trying times.

The sweet tradition began by accident in 1955 when Air Force Col. Harry Shoup — the commander on duty at NORAD’s predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command — answered a call from a child who rang a telephone number misprinted in a newspaper department store ad trying to get in touch with Santa.

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The quick-thinking Shoup assured the girl he was Kris Kringle, and the rest is history.  

On the big day, NORAD Tracks Santa usually fields its first early morning calls from Japan and Europe, answering calls from the U.S. and Canada as the day goes on.

Believers can also follow Santa’s path on Christmas Eve at noradsanta.org.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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