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Air Force veteran John Johnson sports reindeer antlers while he answers calls at the NORAD Santa tracking call center at Peterson Air Force Base on Dec. 24.

COVID-19 is changing the way people spend their holidays, but it won’t stop North American Aerospace Defense Command from tracking Santa’s sleigh ride around the world to deliver toys to good girls and boys.

The aerospace command is preparing for the 65th year of its annual tradition of live-tracking Saint Nick’s Christmas Eve journey, but they are making a few adjustments to keep their holiday volunteers safe during the pandemic, according to a Monday news release from the command.

"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 officials said.

Nearly 1500 volunteers, both military and civilian, operated the phone lines last year, taking calls from children around the world who wanted to know Saint Nick’s whereabouts, public affairs officer Preston Schlachter said.

This year, in order to allow for safe social distancing, far fewer people will be answering at Santa’s toll-free number, 1-877-Hi-NORAD.

“We’ll still have the phone lines open as usual,” Schlachter said. “We’re just doing it with fewer people this year.”

For callers who have trouble getting through, NORAD plans to continually update Santa’s location on its recorded message, so kids will still be able to track his progress even if they don’t get a live person on the line.

Santa followers will still be able to follow his journey by visiting www.noradsanta.org, and this year will be able to track him using a new mobile app, which will be available soon at the Apple App Store or on Google Play.

The NORAD Tracks Santa website is scheduled to go live Dec. 1, and its Facebook and Twitter pages will be active as usual, so kids will also be able to keep tabs on Santa online.

“NORAD is committed to tracking Santa while keeping our military, their families, and our dedicated call center volunteers safe,” according to the release.

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