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NYT WEIGHS IN ON CMAS, CHARLEY PRIDE AND COVID

In the wake of media coverage—including a 12/15 New York Times piece—on the death of legendary artist Charley Pride from COVID and his appearance at the CMA Awards show, there’s much chatter in Nashville and beyond.

While TV and film production continues across the country, there’s been considerable back and forth about the overall justification for producing this, a mostly live, indoor, largely maskless event, amid the pandemic spike. More pointedly, many insiders are loudly questioning the wisdom of bringing an 86-year-old man across the country to perform and receive a Lifetime Achievement Award.

“Why was someone in the most vulnerable demographic exposed to such risk?” one executive close to Pride’s camp asked. “Couldn’t his segment have been done by Zoom or pre-recorded in Texas?” With at least five performers dropping out in the days leading up to the event, it’s been asked: Why didn’t producers choose to err on the side of caution and insist Charley appear remotely?

Several artists have raised questions about that decision. Maren Morris, for example, tweeted, “If this was a result of the CMAs being indoors, we should all be outraged. Rest in power, Charley." (That tweet was subsequently deleted.) Mickey Guyton, who is pregnant and elected not to travel to the event, added, “We need answers as to how Charley Pride got Covid.”

"Everyone affiliated with the CMA Awards followed strict testing protocols outlined by the city health department and unions,” reads a joint statement from CMA and Pride’s representatives. “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."

All of this testing notwithstanding, observers have noted that the disease has a well-understood incubation period and that several attendees of the event tested positive some days after testing ceased.

One thing is certain: The world lost an octogenarian icon. Whether or not Pride, and others, contracted the virus during that week, this episode stands as a stark example of what not to do during a pandemic.

 

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