Did the indoor superspreader CMAs expose the late Charley Pride to coronavirus?

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This year’s CMAs were held on November 11th. I covered it at the time, writing this headline: The CMAs were a maskless, indoor superspreader event without social distancing.” It was all true. The event organizers in Nashville did space out the tables and seating arrangements slightly, but everybody milled about inside the event, maskless and breathing on each other. Charley Pride, 86, attended the CMAs to accept his Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award. Pride is well-known to country fans as (arguably) the first Black country music star, and of course he got a welcome, maskless reception at the CMAs. Just weeks later, Pride was admitted to the hospital with a severe case of the coronavirus, and he passed away on Saturday, December 12th. So… did he get the virus at the CMAs? The CMA organizers want us to know that he absolutely did NOT.

Charley Pride was “unable to overcome” the coronavirus, according to a new statement shared on his official Facebook page. The singer died on Saturday in Dallas, Texas, at the age of 86.

Hours after news of his death was announced, a statement on Pride’s Facebook page detailed his coronavirus diagnosis. “It is with great sadness that we confirm that Charley Pride passed away this morning, Saturday, December 12, 2020, in Dallas, Texas of complications from Covid-19 at age 86,” the statement read.

“He was admitted to the hospital in late November with Covid-19 type symptoms and despite the incredible efforts, skill and care of his medical team over the past several weeks, he was unable to overcome the virus,” the statement continued. “Charley felt blessed to have such wonderful fans all over the world. And he would want his fans to take this virus very seriously.”

On Nov. 11, Pride made his final performance and received the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award at the Country Music Association Awards, which drew controversy for being held indoors despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Many, including country stars Maren Morris, Mickey Guyton and Brandi Carlile, expressed concern about Pride possibly contracting the coronavirus at the CMAs.

However, the awards show issued a statement on Saturday.

“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. After returning to Texas following the CMA Awards, Charley again tested negative multiple times,” the statement read. “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.”

Pride, who was the first Black artist to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and only the second Black artist to perform at the Grand Ole Opry, was best known for his songs “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” and “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone.”

[From People]

Again, the incubation period for the virus is generally believed to be between, like, four to nine days. Meaning, he could have been exposed to the virus at the CMAs, tested negative before and immediately after the awards show, and then tested positive for the virus a week later. Which is what it sounds like – the CMAs weren’t still in charge of testing Mr. Pride a week later, and so their statement about Pride tested negative “multiple times” following the CMAs seems both weak and untrue. He tested negative… until he didn’t. Until his body was riddled with coronavirus and he was hospitalized. Now, is it for sure that Mr. Pride was exposed to the virus ONLY at the CMAs? That’s why there’s contact tracing. He flew to Nashville and back, who knows who he was in contact with after the CMAs, etc. But the point of all of this is that the CMAs should NOT have been done that way – indoors, maskless, in person, with no social distancing.

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24 Responses to “Did the indoor superspreader CMAs expose the late Charley Pride to coronavirus?”

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  1. Amy Bee says:

    The CMAs should have had their show over Zoom like the other award shows and definitely should have had Charley Pride accept his award in a prerecorded message from his home.

    • The Other Katherine says:

      Exactly. The whole thing was so irresponsible. Realistically, not every vulnerable person who might attend will be well-informed on the medical science. That’s why it’s incumbent on the organizers and underwriters to assess the risk and shut it down when the risks to vulnerable people are too high. We’ve had good reason to suspect for months that people are often infectious before they reliably test positive for SARS-CoV-2, and negative tests on their own, even multiple ones, cannot be relied on as evidence of being infection-free absent a quarantine period. It was a bad idea for him to attend, but it also doesn’t seem like anyone was looking out for him, and we shouldn’t be expecting people in their late 80s to figure out on their own the limitations of the safety that coronavirus testing can provide. I blame the organizers. They clearly cared more about having their event and not losing money than about keeping everybody safe.

  2. Chica1971 says:

    Maren Morris called them out which was very brave of her. So sad

    • Mia4s says:

      It needed to be said. These awards shows trying to behave like some “essential” happening is just intensely gross.

    • a reader says:

      Maren is from the Dallas-Fort Worth area – in fact her parents live about a mile from me. That was super brave of her. And yes, the speculation in the DFW music community is that Charley picked it up at the CMAs. Most of my social media feed was filled with that speculation/opinion when the news broke.

      The artistic community here (minus some of the maskholes who play country music locally) has been EXTREMELY aware and responsible around covid 19 – venues are enforcing mask rules and artists are playing many virtual shows. I see posts from local musicians encouraging mask wearing, hand washing, and hanging in there until the vaccine is widely distributed. Needless to say there’s TONS of outrage and sadness surrounding Charley’s death.

      I have no doubt he picked it up there. It certainly could’ve incubated for long enough after his return to Dallas.

  3. OriginalLala says:

    the CMAs were irresponsible for having the show in the first place, but none of the attendees were forced to go, they could have been responsible adults and stayed home.

    • lucy2 says:

      While this is true, I’d be curious to know if the organizers really sold how “safe” it would be to try to convince people to come.

      It never should have been held in person, and is the exact opposite of essential. All of it could have been done remotely, or postponed.

      • Christin says:

        Agree. Safety is an mostly an illusion when it comes to indoor, maskless events. No amount of testing is foolproof, plus singing near others has been designated one of the riskiest activities. If enough performers had declined to attend in person, maybe there would have been a different decision.

        It hurt my heart to see the photos of Charley on stage with several other performers, let alone other risks he likely faced to get to and from the event. It was highly irresponsible of organizers to have a senior citizen exposed to such risks.

  4. GuestwithCat says:

    His career was remarkable and he earned every honor. My mom was such a fan. She had his albums on rotation with Englebert Humperdink’s and Roy Clark’s on the old stereo. She’s heartbroken and feeling that sickening feeling people get as their peers pass on and they’re left behind, keenly aware of their own age.

    I’m saddened at his passing just as the vaccines are starting to be distributed. RIP Charley Pride. Thanks for the music and the memories.

  5. Ohreally says:

    I find it very interesting that an 86 year old man is immediately held accountable when all the excuses are available to everyone else. We don’t know how they sold this event to him, and it’s obvious just from what Tiffany Haddish put out there that these productions care little about the talent. If this had been Willie Nelson, I feel like the flippant response of it was “his choice” would not be tossed out there so easily. I have an 81 yo friend of the family that wants me to come over and visit, but I told her that I couldn’t risk putting someone’s grandmother at risk. It’s about accountability. They put him at risk. We’re supposed to take care of our elders, not use them for a very convenient award during a contentious year where antiblackness had been front and center and the country music genre has been largely silent. He was a pawn, and they used this moment to exploit him to his ultimate demise. I wonder why it’s so easy to just say it was on him and his decision for some of you? It’s quite telling to see that compassion button isn’t automatic. It’s grating actually. They were so slick to toss it out there that he even came by plane just in case those of us who know that it’s possible to drive from Dallas to Nashville so it’s implied that he could have gotten it anywhere. He didn’t come from a reckless rally, and he also could have flown private. That’s a very popular option in Dallas. They’re negligent and the lack of compassion is expected, but tired.

    • Max says:

      ^This exactly @ohreally

    • HoofRat says:

      They used him to look woke, put him at grossly unnecessary risk, then threw him under the bus when he succumbed. Criminals.

    • Green Desert says:

      Ohreally and HoofRat – YES. Thank you for your posts.

    • Anna says:

      Thank you @ohreally and @hoofrat It’s exhausting to always have to point out what should be obvious: the blatant anti-blackness that infuses every part of this terrible situation. Maybe there can be a separate post on CB that specifically highlights Charley Pride’s life and contributions to this genre…

  6. Christin says:

    Charley has always been one of my favorite singers, of any genre. He seemed like a humble, nice person who seemed underrated in terms of what he accomplished.

    I wish this lifetime recognition award had come in a different way, or at a different (earlier) time. He sold the most records for RCA since Elvis(!), and had top hits for multiple decades.

  7. Ariel says:

    The maga maskless folks killed yet another black man, and won’t even blink an eye. They don’t care.
    The trump administration didn’t care that Herman Cain died because of the trump oklahoma event, and the maga country folks don’t care that they killed Charley Pride. He was *only* a black man.
    Welcome to white america.

  8. Annaloo. says:

    These are the people that don’t care about black people, Kanye. Herman Cain likely got covid from the Tulsa Trump rally, and you know Pride likely got it from his efforts to appear at the CMA s. These people who affixed themselves to a maskless life during this pandemic are the absolute worst of humankind.

  9. emu says:

    Ugh such a tragedy

  10. LaUnicaAngelina says:

    So sad and so unnecessary.

  11. Bobby the K says:

    Unrelated, but I just read the CMAs didn’t acknowledge John Prine.