NOTE: This story makes several references to last week’s story, Virus Threatens Santa’s Reindeer. You may want to read that story first.
At the request of Dior, the North Pole physician, I asked Carter, Faer, Birdie, Highstep, Bernard, and Ms. Claus to come to the conference room next to my office. While waiting for them to arrive, Dior gave me all the details of his concern.
“They should all be here by now. You ready?” I asked.
Dior nodded that he was and I took a deep breath. We simultaneously got up and walked through the door in my office that led to the conference room.
When we entered, everyone was talking about how good it was to get back to normal after the threat of CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease) to our reindeer. I sat at the head of the table and motioned for Dior to sit next to me.
Sensing something was not right, Ms. Claus asked, “What’s going on? You two don’t look very happy.”
“Before we get into it,” I began, “have the Mail or Scout Elves resumed their trips to pick up mail and watch the children since the CWD threat ended?”
Carter and Birdie looked at each other and then Birdie said, “The Scout Elves do not usually start watching children outside until the beginning of summer, and visits to their homes begins in late November”
“I was going to resume mail collections this afternoon,” Carter added.
“Call them right now and cancel those trips,” I demanded.
As Carter made the call, deep concern replaced everyone’s smile.
Once Carter returned to the table indicating that he had stopped the Mail Elves from leaving, I began the meeting. “I’m going to let Dior explain what’s going on first. When he is done, we will need to talk about a plan of action so we can inform all the elves about changes in our operations.”
Dior stood and began his explaination. “While all of you and Vetter, our veterinarian, were dealing with the CWD, I was talking with several medical doctors from around the world. In December an unknown virus appeared in Wuhan, China. There is no known cure or vaccine.”
“That doesn’t sound good!” Bernard exclaimed as everyone leaned forward in their chairs.
“It’s not,” Dior continued. “The virus has been named COVID-19, and apparently has been spreading quickly throughout the entire world and is now a pandemic.”
Growing very concerned, Anya asked, “Could it come here?”
“It’s possible,” Dior answered. “Although I am not sure if this virus can be transferred to elves and dwarfs at this point.”
“We should be prepared just in case though,” I said. “Just like we did for the CWD.”
“You’re right Santa. In order to prepare the North Pole, the World Health Organization (WHO) already has some recommendations we should follow,” Dior explained.
Looking through some of the papers in front of him, Dior finally pulled several sheets out and passed them around the table. “First, we should wash our hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub for as long as it takes to sing a verse of Jingle Bells; Second, everyone should cover their mouths and noses with a disposable tissue or flexed elbow when they cough or sneeze.”
“Should we wear masks like we did during the CWD outbreak,” Highstep asked.
“If you are in close contact with others, definitely.”
“Bernard, we need to make sure the elves working on updates to the workshop equipment wear masks,” I stated as I made a note to myself. “If this lasts into June when toy production begins, we will need masks for all the elves.”
Looking at his list, Dior continued, “We should try to stay at least six feet from each other.” Glancing at me he asked, “Have all the elves returned from their vacation in Lapland, Finland?”
“No, there are still several elves that will be returning over the next couple weeks.”
“When they return, they will need to be quarantined for two weeks. That is the amount of time you can be contagious before symptoms begin to show if infected,” Dior explained. “If anyone feels sick, they should be quarantined as well.”
“How can we tell if someone has COVID-19?” Ms. Claus asked.
“It’s on the bottom of the sheet I passed out,” Dior responded. “The primary signs are a fever, tiredness, and a dry cough. You could also have difficulty breathing. The unusual part is that someone could be contagious and not show any signs of being sick.”
“Since no one visits us up here, and we stopped all travel outside of the North Pole for the CWD in January, we should all be safe, right?” I asked.
In a slow cautious voice Dior responded, “We should be. Yet to be sure, I have been working with the scientists at WHO and may have a test ready soon. When that happens, I will test everyone at the North Pole for the virus. Until the virus is under control worldwide, however, we need to follow these guidelines,” he added holding up the list. “We need to make sure the list gets in the hands of everyone at the North Pole.”
“I’ll work with Telsa, our communication coordinator, and my assistant Sophia, and get it done today!” Ms. Claus offered.
“Do you know how long this will go on before we can send elves out again?” Birdie asked.
“I’m afraid no one knows for sure. Since different countries are at different stages of the virus, it may be months from now. The good news, however, is that in some areas like China and Italy, they seem to have peaked and are on the downside of the virus,” Dior informed the group.
“Thank you, Dior. Now I suggest you get back to working on that test,” I stated.
Dior nodded and as he opened the door, added, “If any of you see an elf or dwarf with any of the symptoms, make sure you call me right away.”
“You can count on that!” I exclaimed. Turning my attention back to those at the table, I continued, “Carter, let’s start with the mail.”
Acting a bit nervous he stood up and took a deep breath, “You know, after several months of no mail service, there may be more mail than we can handle in the mailroom once we are able to start collecting it again.”
Bernard, raised his hand and said, “Carter, mail may be considered an essential service in places where they have imposed lockdowns. Could you contact those who are collecting our mail around the world and ask them to scan the letters and email them to you instead of our elves picking them up?”
“I never thought of that,” Carter remarked as he stroked his chin. “When we have had pandemics in the past, we did not have the technology we now have. I think I could make that work. Thanks Bernard.”
Relieved that the mail issue had a solution, I pointed to Faer, director of the J.A.T.S. (Jolly Assistants To Santa) Corps, “What can we do about training?”
“I’m sure the Santa schools will have to cancel their training sessions because of the outbreak if they haven’t done so already,” Faer informed the group.
“Nonetheless, we need to be sure that they are trained properly,” I responded twisting in my chair. “I do not want someone representing me during the season that has not been properly trained.”
“I can contact those running the schools, and see if they can put their courses online so that the J.A.T.S. will be able to get some training while they remain safe at home,” Faer said as he leaned back in his chair.
“That works for me. If the children can attend school online, I don’t see why our J.A.T.S. can’t do the same.” Looking up from my notes I turned to Birdie, “What about the Scout Elves? How can they watch the children if they can’t visit?”
Birdie spoke up right away. “It will be several months before any of our Scout Elves leave to visit children in their homes. However,” she continued with a slight grin, “Quinten, in research and development, should be able to get permission from the creators of the apps the schools are using for their online courses. The elves could then watch the children through those apps to see how they are behaving while confined to their homes.”
Finally, I turned to Anya. “COVID-19 has caused lots of problems and unfortunately many deaths, which puts a lot of stress on children. The procedures you and Sophia have put in place for Sensitive Letters will really be put to the test. Are you ready?”
“I think so, Santa. The big question is, will you be able to handle the increase in the number of letters needing your attention?”
“I will make it a priority and find a way to comfort all of them. I may need some help from you, though,” I explained, saddened by the virus’s world-wide effect.
As the small group waited for me to continue, Highstep asked the question on everyone’s mind. “What if COVID-19 is still here at Christmas? How will you handle visits and deliveries Santa?”
“That’s a tough one, Highstep. I think it is vital to have a plan in place for that. Would all of you work with me to come up with that plan?”
Highstep responded with a thumbs up while the others all nodded in agreement.
“We all have our work cut out for us. So, let’s get to it and meet again in four days.”
As everyone got up to leave, I motioned for Anya to stay seated. Once everyone had left the room, I said, “Anya I am very worried about this. We have been through pandemics before, but not when people moved about the world as much as they do now.”
“Santa we must do our part and hope that everyone else does as well. If that happens, we will all get through this and be better for it in the end.”
Notes From Santa
If your children are looking for a break from school work and games, drop me an email and we can set up a Video Chat between Santa and your children to give them a break.
To read more about the CWD please check out: Virus Threatens Santa’s Reindeer, which was posted on March 30, 2020;
To read more about Faer, and the J.A.T.S. Corp please check out: Santa’s Summer Explorations, which was posted on August 5, 2019; Santa’s Christmas Visits, which was posted on October 21, 2019; and J.A.T.S. Training, which was posted on March 3, 2020;
I hope you enjoyed today’s story. I will post another one next Monday. If you have any comments or if there is something you would like me to tell you about, please feel free to leave me a comment. Until next week . . .
Illustration from Heart and Vascular Institute of Wisconsin