NEW YORK (AP) — Santa is back this year, but he's asking people to be cautious as he continues to tiptoe through the pandemic. There are fewer available Santas this year, which means some are busier than ever. Where it's allowed, some malls and big-box stores are offering Santa's guests a choice of full contact or social distance. Many of the snow globes and barriers set up last year are coming down. About 8.9 million U.S. households are expected to visit Santa in person this year, with virtual visits still a big option. That's up from 6.1 million last year but fewer than the 10 million who paid the Jolly Old Elf a visit in 2019.

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