The unidentified actors took photos with roughly 50 children at a holiday celebration in Ludowici, Georgia, according to officials.

By Gabrielle Chung
December 15, 2020
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Two people who recently played Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus at a holiday celebration in Georgia have tested positive for COVID-19, possibly exposing dozens to the novel coronavirus.

The unidentified pair were diagnosed with coronavirus on Saturday, two days after appearing in a Christmas parade in Ludowici and taking photos with roughly 50 children following a tree-lighting ceremony, according to officials.

Robert Parker, the chairman of the Long County Board of Commissioners, said in a statement on its website that the duo "were not displaying any symptoms at the time of the event."

"While this event was not put on by the City of Ludowici or the Long County Board of Commissioners, it was well attended by our public officials and I believe I speak for the majority of them in saying that we still stand by the decision of the Chamber to move forward with these holiday traditions and to bring some sense of normalcy to these trying times," he said.

Parker added that his own kids took photos with Santa and said "no children were forced to attend the events and that choice was left solely in the hands of their parent."

"I have personally known both 'Santa' and 'Mrs. Claus' my entire life and I can assure everyone that they would have never knowingly done anything to place any children in danger," he continued. "They have both filled these roles for many years, and bringing joy to children during the holidays is one of the most important parts of their lives."

Officials have asked those who believe they were exposed to follow proper COVID-19 quarantine guidelines as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which dictates that people who had contact with someone diagnosed with coronavirus isolate at home for 14 days.

Dana Green, a parent coordinator for Long County Schools System, told local news station WJCL that students who were exposed have been advised to remain at home until after the holiday break.

A Dec. 9 post shared on the Long County School System's Facebook said that the community has been "experiencing an increase in Long County students and staff who are currently diagnosed with COVID-19 and/or are quarantined due to being identified as a direct contact for a positive person."

However, the notice said that all schools will remain open through to Dec. 18, though virtual learning is available for students.

As of Monday, there have been more than 16,556,900 cases of COVID-19 in the United States and at least 300,800 deaths from coronavirus-related illnesses, according to a New York Times database.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

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