50 children exposed to coronavirus-infected Santa, Mrs. Claus in Georgia

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A Christmas photo-op with Santa may have become a coronavirus superspreader event in Georgia, where at least 50 children were exposed to an infected Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

Officials in Ludowici, Ga., say actors playing Santa and Mrs. Claus tested positive for COVID-19 after holding court at a Christmas festival on Dec. 10. The event included a parade, a tree-lighting and a chance to meet and take photos with Santa, local station WSAV reports.

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“After the event both ‘Santa’ and ‘Mrs. Claus’ were tested for the COVID-19 virus and both received positive test results,” Robert Parker, chairman of the Long County Board of Commissioners, wrote in a statement on Facebook Monday. “The event was well attended and roughly 50 children had their picture taken with Santa.”

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He added this his own children were among those who took pictures with Santa, and downplayed the incident by comparing it to exposures that “happen every day as we go about our day-to-day lives.”

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“This is cause for concern,” he wrote in the first part of the statement. “I do not feel this incident is cause for panic,” he said later on.

Parker urged parents to follow proper health guidelines if their children were exposed. He also defended the decision to hold a public gathering during the coronavirus pandemic, saying it was important for “normalcy.”

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He added that he’s known “Santa” and “Mrs. Claus” his entire life, and said they would never knowingly put children in danger.

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Parker said no one in his family has shown symptoms of the disease to date.

Ludowici is a community of about 2,200 people in southeastern Georgia. It’s the only incorporated municipality in the area and is about 20 minutes away from the nearest hospital.

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