Country Music Association Responds to Concern About COVID-19 Safety Protocols at 2020 CMA Awards
After a flurry of artist drop-outs in the hours leading up to the 2020 CMA Awards due to positive COVID-19 tests, the awards show went on as planned on Wednesday night (Nov. 11), adapting or cancelling performances to adjust to the acts who couldn't be at the show. But as cameras aired the ceremony live on ABC, some viewers started questioning the protocols in place at the event due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
In the weeks before the ceremony, the Country Music Association rolled out a list of protocols they'd be using to keep attendees safe during the show. Showrunners said they'd use banquet-style seating at Nashville's Music City Center, with tables spaced eight feet apart and no more than one act and their guest seated at the same table.
But as the show began, some fans noticed that the tables seemed to be a little closer together than eight feet, and that artists Jake Owen and Morgan Wallen were seated at the same table. Also, artists were not wearing masks while in the crowd.
At a virtual press conference taking place at the same time as the awards show, media members began asking CMA representatives for clarification about the event's COVID-19 policies. After multiple outlets sought comment, the CMA offered a statement about their social distancing policies at the show:
"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. 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," said a representative on behalf of the CMA. "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."
Still a couple of attendees could be seen on camera standing and dancing without wearing masks; pictures from the event also show attendees standing and talking at other tables, maskless. However, a number of images from the event do show performers and nominees preparing for the show at Music City Center while wearing face shields.
Rascal Flatts, Jenee Fleenor and Lady A all got benched in the 11th hour before the 2020 CMAs kicked off, either due to personal positive COVID-19 tests or positive tests within their immediate families. Earlier in the week, Florida Georgia Line's Tyler Hubbard and Lee Brice also dropped out of their roles in the awards show as a result of the virus.