Charley Pride performs onstage during the CMA Awards at Music...

Charley Pride performs onstage during the CMA Awards at Music City Center on Nov. 11 in Nashville, Tenn. Credit: Getty Images for CMA / Terry Wyatt

The Country Music Association, which held its CMA Awards ceremony indoors in November, says it is not to blame for 86-year-old Lifetime Achievement honoree Charley Pride contracting the coronavirus that led to his death on Saturday.

"Everyone affiliated with the CMA Awards followed strict testing protocols outlined by the city health department and unions," the Nashville, Tennessee-based organization said in a statement Saturday. "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 organization added, "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."

Signs and symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, may not appear for 2 to 14 days after exposure, according to the Mayo Clinic. Harvard Medical School notes that people "may actually be most likely to spread the virus to others during the 48 hours before they start to experience symptoms."

Pride had been "admitted to the hospital in late November with Covid-19 type symptoms," his family announced on Facebook Saturday, "and despite the incredible efforts, skill and care of his medical team over the past several weeks, he was unable to overcome the virus. Charley felt blessed to have such wonderful fans all over the world. And he would want his fans to take this virus very seriously."

The death of the three-time Grammy Award winner, the first Black star of country music with such hits as "Kiss an Angel Good Morning," elicited an outpouring of grief from those in the music industry, with fellow county-music legend Loretta Lynn, 88, tweeting, "Heartbreaking. I truly loved my friend, Charley Pride. The world will never be the same. He was one of the very best things that ever happened to country music. I'm all tears tonight."

Others wondered what part the indoor CMA ceremony might have played. In a since-deleted tweet transcribed by numerous news organizations, Maren Morris, 30, who won three CMA Awards that night, said, "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." Responded five-time Grammy-winning singer-songwriter and producer Brandi Carlile, 39, "Honestly you're right to acknowledge what everyone is wondering & as usual YOU have a lot to lose for asking the question. Thank you for being human. Whether that was the place he got it or not- they endangered him & it easily could have been. It's quietly bothered me for weeks."

"We need answers as to how Charley Pride got covid," tweeted fellow Black country singer Mickey Guyton, 37.

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