The North American Aerospace Defense Command has no intention of allowing the novel coronavirus pandemic to ruin a beloved 65-year tradition.
The agency did, however, announce “some adjustments” to the 2020 operation on Monday, intended to ensure the mission remains uncompromised.
For instance, only a small number of volunteers will be on hand Dec. 24 to field toll-free calls to 877-Hi-NORAD (877-446-6723), compared with the hundreds of volunteers who have answered children’s calls from across the globe, WVTM reported.
Callers unable to reach a live volunteer will receive a recorded update on Santa’s location, KUSA reported.
“While NORAD understands the call center is an important tradition for many families around the world, we reduce the health risks posed by attempting to conduct a large indoor, in-person, call center during the pandemic,” NORAD stated on its Santa Tracker Facebook page.
“NORAD is committed to tracking Santa while keeping our military, their families and our dedicated call center volunteers safe,” the agency added.
Meanwhile, the NORAD Tracks Santa website goes live Dec. 1, meaning true Santa travel enthusiasts can still track the trackers at their leisure. The tracker will also be viewable on NORAD’s social media accounts and via a new mobile app. Tracking also will be available via OnStar and Amazon Alexa, WVTM reported.
According to KUSA, the Santa Tracker program dates to 1955, when a Colorado Springs, Colorado, Sears location printed a newspaper advertisement inviting children to call and chat with the Big Man. The number was misprinted, however, and NORAD’s predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command, found itself fielding the phone calls.
“The colonel on duty that night realized the mistake. He ordered his officers and his troops to start tracking Santa using our systems and telling the kids where Santa was throughout the night,” KUSA reported.
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