The CMA is responding to speculation about Charley Pride’s COVID-19-related death.
Pride passed away on Saturday at age 86, just one month after making his final public appearance at this year’s CMA Awards. The singer received Lifetime Achievement honors and performed his 1971 classic “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin'” alongside Jimmie Allen.
Social media noted a lack of mask wearing at the Nov. 11 event, held inside Nashville’s Music City Center, and online chatter reignited following the news of Pride’s loss. A post on the singer’s official Facebook page explained that he was “admitted to the hospital in late November with Covid-19 type symptoms,” but “despite the incredible efforts, skill and care of his medical team” in the ensuing weeks he was sadly “unable to overcome the virus.”
In a now-deleted tweet, Maren Morris expressed her concern about the timeline and suggested the possibility that Pride may have been exposed to the coronavirus while attending the CMAs.
“I don’t want to jump to conclusions because no family statement has been made, but if this was a result of the CMAs being indoors, we should all be outraged. Rest in power, Charley,” she wrote.
Morris, who also performed and won multiple awards at the show, wasn’t the only celebrity wondering about a connection between Pride’s illness and country music’s biggest night. Brandi Carlile and Mickey Guyton replied to her post and shared that they’d each been asking themselves similar questions.
In a new statement on the CMA website, the organization and Pride’s reps responded to the backlash and denied that the icon fell ill due to attending the ceremony.
“Everyone affiliated with the CMA Awards followed strict testing protocols outlined by the city health department and unions. Charley was tested prior to traveling to Nashville. He was tested upon landing in Nashville, and again on show day, with all tests coming back negative,” the statement read. “After returning to Texas following the CMA Awards, Charley again tested negative multiple times. All of us in the Country Music community are heartbroken by Charley’s passing. Out of respect for his family during their grieving period, we will not be commenting on this further.”
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The CMAs previously explained the testing and social distancing procedures that were put in place to ensure everyone’s safety was of utmost priority.
“We are following all protocols that have been put in place by the CDC as well as the creative unions to ensure we provide the safest environment possible,” an earlier statement read. “Prior to even stepping onto our footprint at MCC, every single person (including artists and their reps) was required to be tested, with many testing repeatedly throughout the week as an extra measure of precaution. Just as with COVID regulations at restaurants, all in attendance are required to wear a mask any time they leave their assigned seat. Staff and crew are also required to wear PPE at all times and, of course, practice social and physical distancing. Tables are spaced eight feet apart with no more than four people seated per table.”
Multiple musicians were forced to cancel scheduled performances after testing positive for COVID-19 prior to the show, including Rascal Flatts’ Jenee Fleenor and Lee Brice. Lady A also dropped out after a family member of the group was diagnosed with the virus.
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