PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The supply chain issue has hit Santa Claus. Literally.

As we rapidly approach the holiday season, there is a Santa shortage across the country. HireSanta.com books Santas — aka, Santa’s friends or helpers — for events across the country, including in the Portland area.

Head Elf Mitch Allen said there are about 15% fewer Santas this year — but the demand is 120% over pre-pandemic levels. There are many reasons, he said, including aging out.

But COVID appears to be the primary culprit.

Many Santas are still apprehensive about having young children who aren’t vaccinated sit on their laps. On a grim note, Allen said many of Santa’s helpers died over the past year due to the coronavirus.

“Unfortunately, we’ve lost a number of terrific Santa Claus entertainers over the past few months, primarily due to COVID,” Allen said. “As you can imagine our Santas are in a high-risk group for a negative outcome if they get COVID. So, we had a number of Santas that passed away over the last 18 months.”

He added some Santas also had COVID and are still dealing with the long term effects. He said they have no additional Santas for the first two weekends in December.

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Comedian Conan O’Brien sits on the lap of Santa Claus in Seattle, December 2017 (KOIN, file)

Many Santas are doing virtual visits again, he said.

Dalani Gray, who owns Portland Santa, said they are still “on edge” because of COVID cases. Because of that they are mainly doing virtual visits with their Santas this year. They will not be in any local malls or big events, she said.

Portland Santa on Facebook

Over the years Gray has had a few Santas retire like the popular Santa Tom and Santa Phil. Age is the main issue among the concerns regarding COVID with her Santas. The few events they are doing will involve many COVID safety measures, like distancing and vaccination requirements for adults.