NEW JERSEY, NJ — Santa Claus may be coming to town, but he’ll have to physically distance when he gets here.

Medical Director at the New Jersey Department of Health, Edward Lifshitz, said Monday that among other COVID-19 health protocols, this year children should not be permitted to sit on Santa’s lap.  

The state will release more guidance later today, with Christmas expected to take place in the middle of the pandemic's second wave.

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“We know that this is a time of year we're used to gathering together with loved ones and friends to celebrate. But this year, we need to change how we enjoy the holidays,” said Lifshitz during the state’s press briefing.“[The state health department’s] guidance will include recommendations for limited travel outside the home, limiting indoor gatherings to household members, visits with Santa (with a preference for virtual or outdoor visits) and measures for choir performances in caroling.”

The NJ medical director provided the following preview of DOH guidelines:

  • Christmas tree and Menorah lighting events should be held outdoors and must adhere to gathering limits
  • If malls and other indoor locations still choose to offer in-person visits with photos, these visits should be made via reservation, be socially distanced and time-limited
  • Santa, his elves and other helpers should wear face masks 
  • All choir groups should be socially distanced from each other and their audience during each performance
  • Singing groups that perform in public must be at least 10 feet away from others or have physical barriers between them and the audience (everyone should wear masks)
  • Holiday parades are discouraged this year
  • If holiday parades are organized, consider limiting in-person attendance and instead having the parade live-streamed so the public can view it virtually
  • Parade participants should not be permitted to throw items from their floats or cars to spectators

“With increased cases, we must continue to maintain our vigilance against COVID-19 and celebrate safely and responsibly to ensure healthy holidays,” said Lifshitz.

Following Monday’s update, New Jersey has nearly 17,000 coronavirus deaths and 337,304 positive cases. Almost 3,000 people are currently being treated at hospitals statewide.

On Wednesday, Gov. Phil Murphy said he will discuss COVID-19 second wave modeling.

“That modeling is not unlike Scrooge’s fate at the end of ‘A Christmas Carol.’ The model is like what the Ghost of Christmas Future showed Scrooge, not images of what will be but rather of what may be should we not take any direct action or should we give in to pandemic fatigue,” Murphy said. “Aswe recommit to social distancing, masking and good hand-hygiene, the model will take this into account and be updated. Hopefully, for the better.”