NORAD launches Santa tracker Dec. 1, but kids might only get voicemail on Christmas Eve

Kids will have to wait until Christmas Eve to start tracking Santa Claus’ whereabouts, but the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is giving them plenty to pass the time with.

NORAD launched its Santa-tracking website on Dec. 1, giving kids access to games, music, videos and a countdown.

Beginning Christmas Eve, kids will be able to log in to find out where on Earth Santa and his reindeer are at any given moment.

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They will also be able to stay up to date by phone (1-877-HI-NORAD), email, Onstar, Amazon’s Alexa and mobile apps for Apple and Android devices.

But just as the COVID-19 pandemic has done to so many traditions this year, NORAD’s service has been reimagined for 2020.

Santa and Mrs. Claus attend the 90th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 24, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Mark Sagliocco/FilmMagic)

Roughly 150 volunteers typically man NORAD’s phones on Christmas Eve. But this year, packing that many people together in a closed space risks allowing the coronavirus to spread.

So, NORAD will limit this year’s staff to 10 people per shift.

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With reduced manpower, fewer callers will successfully reach an operator. Therefore, those who fail to get through will be greeted with a recorded update on Santa’s location.

The Santa-tracking service has been operating since 1955, when the Continental Air Defense Command, NORAD’s predecessor, fielded a call from a child who was trying to reach Santa.

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Air Force Col. Harry Shoup, the commander on duty, acted as St. Nick and assured her he would have a safe journey.

This story was reported from Atlanta.