Kelsea Ballerini Slams ‘Selfish’ Chase Rice for Having Concert During Coronavirus Pandemic
Chase Rice performed a concert at Tennessee's Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary on Saturday night (June 27), and now, he's being called out for it.
The country singer is facing backlash from social media users and some fellow artists after video from the event shows a crowd of fans packed into the venue, with no masks or social distancing measures in sight.
On his Instagram Stories, Rice shared two videos of the audience at his Saturday night show, crowded close together near the stage and singing along to his performance. The singer, who appears at the end of the second clip, is not wearing a mask, nor are any of the fans who are clearly visible in the video clips, despite the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) still being prevalent in the state and throughout the United States.
"We back," Rice captioned the first clip, with a sunglasses-wearing emoji:
After the video began making its way around social media on Sunday (June 28), TMZ picked up the story, and artists including Mickey Guyton and Kelsea Ballerini began sounding off.
"Imagine being selfish enough to put thousands of people’s health at risk, not to mention the potential ripple effect, and play a NORMAL country concert right now," Ballerini says.
"@ChaseRiceMusic, We all want (and need) to tour," she adds. "We just care about our fans and their families enough to wait."
Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary is a former maximum-security prison turned event venue in Petros, Tenn., a town located about 150 miles east of Nashville and about 40 miles east of Knoxville. The venue has a number of shows on its calendar for the coming weeks, and safety protocols posted on its Instagram account advertise that the venue's capacity has been reduced from 10,000 to 4,000, and that all guests will have their temperatures taken before they enter the venue. The venue is making hand sanitizer available and selling bandanas to use as face coverings, and vendors and staff are required to wear masks and gloves.
"In my opinion — you gotta keep people safe and all that — I mean, f--k this. They gotta let us go play and the people that are healthy can decide if they want to come or not," Rice told Taste of Country earlier this year, as the U.S. was largely shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. "That’s what the American Constitution is all about, is us having the choice."
Brian May, vice president of the Brushy Mountain Group, tells Billboard that Rice's concert drew fewer than 1,000 people. The smaller-than-capacity crowd allowed for social distancing to take place, but, May adds, the venue was unable to enforce the recommendations.
"We are re-evaluating the series from top to bottom," May adds, "from implementing further safety measures, to adding stanchions, to converting the space to drive-in style concerts, to postponing shows."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of June 28, Tennessee has recorded 40,172 cases of COVID-19 since Jan. 21; a total of 6,155 of those cases have been recorded in the past seven days. Morgan County specifically, where Petros is located, has only had 23 confirmed COVID-19 cases and one related death, though there are no rules in place to keep those from other counties or out of state from traveling to the area.
On Sunday, the Tennessee Department of Health was unable to release updated coronavirus statistics due to an "unplanned shutdown" of the National Electronic Disease Surveillance System Base System, which state officials use to manage disease data and report it to the CDC. According to a TDH statement, the shutdown was "due to an extremely high volume of both COVID-19 and other laboratory test results being reported."
Tennessee's current guidelines for reopening recommend that event venues "operate in a manner such that persons from different households or small groups are able to substantially maintain 6 feet of separation from other persons or small groups outside their own group during their visit." The guidelines also suggest that staff take guests' temperatures and "strongly encourage" face masks, but do not require either. At this time, the state of Tennessee as a whole is not mandating that people wear face masks when out in public.
"I’m going to go play. I’m not going to sit back and do nothing because at the end of the day, financially I can’t do that," Rice added to ToC. "I need to go play. It’s not even about me at this point. It’s about trying to put together some money here to try to pay my guys."
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