One of the Philadelphia region's largest mall operators will welcome Santa Claus back for the 2020 holiday season, but Ol' Saint Nick will be social distancing from your family.
Philadelphia-based PREIT owns several malls including Cherry Hill Mall, Willow Grove Park Mall, Plymouth Meeting Mall and the Fashion District of Philadelphia (the former Gallery) said Santa Claus and his reindeer will visit its malls starting Friday, Nov. 6.
But with the coronavirus pandemic continuing to spread — and infections increasing in communities across the region — there will be COVID-19 safety protocols dictating how you'll spend your time with Santa.
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Those wishing to pose for a picture in-person with Santa (for a fee) will find him situated behind a plexiglass shield. Families will be able to sit on a bench in front of the shield and will be able to talk to Santa. When it comes time to take the photo, PREIT says everyone will be allowed to briefly remove their face masks. Pet photos will be allowed on Mondays.
You can also wave hi to Santa without paying for a picture, but both will require a reservation made through the mall's website.
Those wishing to spend extra time with Santa can pay for an "ultimate experience" where they get double the time with him as well as a photo and storytime.
Those not wishing to go to the mall can also have meet him virtually through a special one-on-one Zoom call. The call will last for five minutes and you'll be able to record the experience as a keepsake.
The return of Santa as the nation remains mired in the protracted fight against COVID-19 is sure to be a welcome sense of normalcy for weary holiday-lovers and mall operators like PREIT.
The pandemic decimated the economy with retail outlets among those hurt the most. PREIT said last week that it recently reached an agreement with 80% of its creditors, but has not ruled out bankruptcy protection.