Sorry, Grinch. Virus Won’t Stop NORAD from Tracking Santa

November 27, 2020by Lolita C. Baldor, Associated Press
In this Dec. 23, 2019 photo a playbook sits next to a telephone set up in the NORAD Tracks Santa center at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Children of the world can rest easy. The global pandemic won’t stop them from tracking Santa Claus’ progress as he delivers gifts around the globe on Christmas Eve.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command has announced that NORAD will track Santa on Dec. 24, just as it has done for 65 years. But there will be some changes: Not every child will be able to get through to a volunteer at NORAD’s call center to check on Santa’s whereabouts, as they have in years before.

Normally, 150-160 volunteers crowd into a conference room at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, taking two-hour shifts to answer the phones as eager children call to see if Santa and his sleigh have reached their rooftops. All together, 1,500 people over 20 hours have participated in the call center in the past, fielding more than 130,000 phone calls, beginning at 6 a.m. Eastern time on Christmas Eve.

This year, due to safety restrictions forced by the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of volunteers has been drastically cut to what NORAD expects 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.”

So, some callers may be able to once again get through to a member of the military or other volunteer when they dial the NORAD Tracks Santa toll-free number, 1-877-Hi-NORAD. But others will get a recorded update on Santa’s current location.

Schlachter said NORAD will largely be limiting volunteers to people who already work there and their immediate families. But that could be expanded a bit as the time gets closer. He said that this year volunteers will answer health questions and have their temperature checked when they arrive, and a cleaning crew will wipe down surfaces throughout the day. There will be wipes and other supplies available, and between shifts the entire calling area will be sanitized before the next group comes in.

Faced with concerns about the virus, officials at NORAD have worked for weeks to figure out a way to ensure that the much-beloved tradition could go on.

The military command has been fielding calls since 1955, when Air Force Col. Harry Shoup — the commander on duty at NORAD’s predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command — fielded a call from a child who dialed a misprinted telephone number in a newspaper department store ad, thinking she was calling Santa.

A fast-thinking Shoup quickly assured his caller that he was. And the tradition began.

Today, most early calls come from Japan and Europe, and as the day goes on the callers from the U.S. and Canada climb.

Besides the call center, the NORAD Tracks Santa website — noradsanta.org — as well as social media pages, Amazon Alexa, Onstar and a new mobile app will still be available with up-to-the-minute details on Santa’s location. A social media team will operate from a separate conference room at the base.

The tracking Santa apps will soon be available on Google Play and the Apple App Store.

In The News

Biden Signs Executive Order to End Corporate Prisons
Criminal Justice
Biden Signs Executive Order to End Corporate Prisons
January 27, 2021
by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON -- President Joe Biden issued an executive order Tuesday to end the Justice Department's use of private prisons. The order tells the Justice Department not to renew contracts with the corporations that incarcerate more than 120,000 people in the United States, or about 8.2% of... Read More

Michigan House GOP Unveils Rebuttal to Whitmer’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan
State News
Michigan House GOP Unveils Rebuttal to Whitmer’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan
January 27, 2021
by Reece Nations

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan House Appropriations Committee Chairman Thomas Albert announced Republicans’ rebuttal to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposed COVID-19 recovery plan.  The House Republicans’ plan would provide roughly $3.5 billion in federal and state funds for employers, families, schools and vaccine distribution, according to a statement... Read More

Merck Halts Work on Vaccine, Moderna Delivers 30.4 Million Doses to Feds
Business
Merck Halts Work on Vaccine, Moderna Delivers 30.4 Million Doses to Feds
January 27, 2021
by Daniel Mollenkamp

Merck has withdrawn from the sprint to produce coronavirus vaccines after its two candidates failed to achieve strong results in preliminary trials. The first phase of clinical studies showed that even though the vaccine candidates were "well tolerated" the immune responses triggered by them were "inferior"... Read More

Iowa District 2 Election Saga Continues
State News
Iowa District 2 Election Saga Continues
January 27, 2021
by Sara Wilkerson

In a Monday webinar hosted by Iowa Democrat Rita Hart, Hart’s attorney Marc Elias disputed Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks' recent motion of dismissal for Hart’s contention with the state’s 2nd Congressional District election results.   Hart, who ran for the House of Representatives against Miller-Meeks, lost the November... Read More

Former Trump White House Official Optimistic Biden Will Continue Tech Modernization
Technology
Former Trump White House Official Optimistic Biden Will Continue Tech Modernization
January 27, 2021
by Victoria Turner

Efforts to modernize the federal government's use of technology have long enjoyed "enthusiastic bipartisan support" that is likely to continue during Joe Biden's presidency, said Matt Lira, who was special assistant to the president on innovation policy during the Trump administration. Speaking during a virtual fireside... Read More

Biden Says He's ‘Bringing Back the Pros’ for Virus Briefings
Health
Biden Says He's ‘Bringing Back the Pros’ for Virus Briefings

WASHINGTON (AP) — For nearly a year it was the Trump show. Now President Joe Biden is calling up the nation’s top scientists and public health experts to regularly brief the American public about the pandemic that has claimed more than 425,000 U.S. lives. Beginning Wednesday, administration experts... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top