Pride, 86, was honored at the 54th annual CMA Awards last month and attended the show to accept his Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award.
However, the country music icon was diagnosed with COVID-19 in late November and “was unable to overcome the virus,” according to a Facebook post shared by his team on Saturday, which has led some fans to speculate about his sudden passing.
A statement from representatives of Pride and the CMA was quickly issued upon the announcement of the singer’s death.
“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 joint statement reads, which was published on the CMA’s website.
“After returning to Texas following the CMA Awards, Charley again tested negative multiple times,” the statement continued. “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.”
Although the CMA reiterated that it applied health and safety procedures to protect stars from the coronavirus, fans and colleagues of Pride have questioned whether the icon contracted the virus at the event.
“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,” tweeted country music singer Maren Morris, 30.
The incubation period for the potentially deadly respiratory virus ranges from 2 to 14 days, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In addition to testing, a representative for the CMA told TV Line that every person who was involved with the award show followed social distancing procedures and wore face masks while they were inside Nashville’s Music City Center.
Attendees were reportedly seated with a maximum of four people per table and each table was spaced 8 feet apart. Face masks were allowed to be removed at assigned seats. There was an exception, however, for hosts and stars who accepted their awards on stage.
Stars who tested positive for COVID-19 or were close to someone who had the virus dropped out of the award show ahead of show time, including singer Lee Brice, Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard, Rascal Flatts fiddler Jenee Fleenor and Lady A.