After a handful of artists questioned if country legend Charley Pride, who died Saturday (Dec. 12) of COVID-19, could have been exposed at Nov. 11’s CMA Awards, where he was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Nashville ceremony, the Country Music Association and representatives for Pride released a joint statement explaining the show and Pride’s testing procedures.
“Everyone affiliated with the CMA Awards followed strict testing protocols outlined by the city health department and unions,” the CMA wrote in a statement posted to its website late Saturday afternoon. “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. 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.”
Maren Morris, a triple winner at the awards, was one of the first to question how Pride had been infected. She tweeted, “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 … F— this f—ing year.”
“We need answers as to how Charley Pride got covid,” Mickey Guyton wrote, bringing the discussion to her Twitter page.
The CMA Awards were held at Music City Center in Nashville, attended only by performers, nominees and selected guests sitting at socially distanced tables.
In an interview with Billboard after this year’s CMA Awards — an event that had a number of artists, including Florida Georgia Line, Lee Brice, Rascal Flatts and Lady A, not attending because they or a member of their family tested positive for COVID-19 — CMA CEO Sarah Trahern addressed the rigorous testing protocols their team had in place.
“We began testing weeks before the show, in October. It’s not just the artists and their guests we tested — we tested literally everyone: stagehands, production crew, our staff, in addition to talent. We have our final load out happening now at Music City Center, so testing doesn’t just stop because talent is no longer on site. We also consulted with an epidemiologist throughout the process,” Trahern said of preparing for the first awards show during the pandemic to include a live, if socially distanced and limited, audience.
“None of the artists who tested positive had ever entered the venue,” added Trahern. “The protocols we followed were required not only by the CDC but the local health department, as well as the unions and guilds.”