Dozens of children may have been exposed to the coronavirus after taking pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus at a Christmas parade in Georgia last week.
In a Facebook post Monday, Long County Board of Commissioners chair Robert D. Parker announced that following the county chamber of commerce's Dec. 10 Christmas parade in Ludowici, southwest of Savannah, the individuals who served as the festivities' Santa and Mrs. Claus tested positive for COVID-19.
Parker wrote that approximately 50 children had their pictures taken with Saint Nick, adding that the Clauses were not symptomatic at the time of the event.
"Proper CDC exposure guidelines should be followed if your child was exposed, however I do not feel this incident is cause for panic," Parker said, adding that he believed it was the right decision to move forward with the parade, despite rising numbers of hospitalizations and deaths in Georgia and nationwide.
"My children both had their picture made with Santa," he wrote, "and their smiles were bigger than any day when they head off to school, where the same risk of exposure exist."
Long County, which has a population of about 20,000 people, had a positivity rate of 11% between Nov. 26 and Dec. 9 and reported 16 new cases last week, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.
Though children are less likely to become severely ill from COVID-19, they are not immune from the virus and can still spread it to others.
It was not immediately clear whether the Clauses or the children were wearing masks for the pictures or if anyone else may have been exposed.
A picture posted on Facebook by the Long County Fire Department showed Mr. and Mrs. Claus sitting on top of a fire engine without face coverings.
"Santa Clause and Mrs. Clause came to town tonight on our fire truck!! We had so much fun with him at the Ludowici Christmas Parade," the post read. "We hope all the boys and girls enjoyed getting to see them. Merry Christmas!"
The Long County Chamber of Commerce did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment.