John Shearer, Getty Images
Awards shows are just one of many things that have been rightfully canceled, postponed, or significantly reimagined due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic this year. (Remember the presenters in hazmat tuxedo suits at the 2020 Emmys?) While most shows have pushed the event into 2021 or switched to a no-audience virtual format, the 2020 Country Music Awards seemed to have missed the whole nation-wide pandemic memo, because the show went on pretty much as normal on Wednesday night, November 11th.
Ahead of last night's show, Sarah Trahern, CMA Chief Executive Officer explained in a press release that the show would be downsizing and adhering to distancing guidelines, People reports.
"Although the show will feel a bit more intimate this year, we look forward to hosting our nominated artists and their guests as we celebrate the best of country music in a fully safe and physically distant environment," she said. But to those who tuned in, that "fully safe" environment she mentioned looked a lot more like a house party.
"I turned the CMA Awards on for 5 mins and the first thing I see is artists hugging each other and giving high fives," one Twitter user wrote. A CMA rep told TV Line that each guests was tested for the virus ahead of time and that they were "extremely diligent"—but with coronavirus cases surging across the country right now, optics matter.
"I KNOW they’re in a bubble and have been tested a ton," Twitter user @LaLorenz continued. "But our country is literally the WORST it’s been with covid. They can’t even set a good example."
I turned the CMA Awards on for 5 mins and the first thing I see is artists hugging each other and giving high fives.
I KNOW they’re in a bubble and have been tested a ton. But our country is literally the WORST it’s been with covid.
They can’t even set a good example.
— Laura (@LaLorenz) November 12, 2020
The awards ceremony was smaller than usual, with the audience restricted to only the nominated artists and their guests, but the crowd definitely still exceeded COVID-safe guidelines. A Vulture reporter wrote, "From our vantage point, there were at least 20 booths/tables, which by our expert calculations would mean at least 80 people (not counting crew members and performers) are currently in an enclosed space listening to live music at the height of the pandemic. Oof."
Another Twitter user criticized how the show pretended as if the pandemic wasn't happening, writing that the CMAs were "real good at living in alternate realities."
No one at the CMAs said the words John Prine, Billy Joe Shaver, or Jerry Jeff Walker... and y’all call that country music? Hahahahaha! In fairness, no one said COVID either so they’re real good at living in alternate realities.
— Adam W. Jordan, Ph.D. (@aj_wade) November 12, 2020
Someone else decided it was time to give the ceremony a rebrand. "Well folks buckle up for the 2020 CMAs (COVID Music Awards)."
well folks buckle up for the 2020 CMAs (COVID Music Awards)
— Natalie Weiner (@natalieweiner) November 12, 2020
According to People, five acts backed out of the show due to either being infected with or exposed to coronavirus, including the group Lady A, who changed their name earlier this year, and Florida Georgia Line. "Some of y'all guessed it..... Got the Rona," Tyler Hubbard of the latter band announced on social media.
In conclusion: Yikes, and everyone please just stay home.