The COVID-19 pandemic continues to reverberate worldwide more than one year after its first strike, taking over the lives of everyday individuals. With an estimated 219 million cases of infection all over the world, from frontline workers to prominent personalities to the highest ranks of government officials, it’s clear that anyone is susceptible.
And today’s biggest country stars are not immune that the numbers have continued to rise, especially with the surge of the Delta variant throughout the United States.
See below who has announced they contracted the COVID-19 or, sadly, lost their lives to the disease.
1. Sturgill Simpson
While on tour in Western Europe and southeastern parts of the United States earlier last year, Sturgill Simpson had to postpone the remaining events and went to the hospital. The Grammy-winning country singer said he experienced chest pains, had a fever, and pre-stroke levels of high blood pressure.
But despite his initial symptoms, doctors refused to test Simpson as he “did not fit testing criteria” – in which he expressed his dismay in a lengthy Instagram post. Nearly a month later, Simpson and his wife were able to get tested at a drive-through facility in Alabama, where his test came back positive.
2. Joe Diffie
Country singer Joe Diffie, who topped the charts in the 1990s with his lighthearted odes to country life, including “John Deere Green,” “Home,” and “Pickup Man,” died in Nashville, Tennessee, on March 29.
Two days prior to his death, the Grammy winner and longtime Grand Ole Opry member released a statement revealing he had tested positive for Covid-19 and was receiving treatment. Sadly, he lost the battle, making it the first reported loss of a country star to pandemic-related complications. Diffie was 61.
3. Rita Wilson
Actor Tom Hanks announced on social media in March 2020 that he and his wife, country singer Rita Wilson, have both tested positive for Covid-19.
The couple was in Australia at that time as Hanks worked for his upcoming biographical musical drama film about Elvis Presley, when he and Wilson started feeling “a bit tired like we had colds, and some body aches.” They were tested to be safe and found to be positive.
4. John Prine
John Prine, who for five decades wrote thoughtful and remarkable ballads like “Angel From Montgomery” and “In Spite of Ourselves,” died on April 7, 2020, from complications of the Covid-19. He was 73.
Three weeks before his death, the singer-songwriter’s wife, Fiona, revealed that she had tested positive for the virus. Prine himself was hospitalized six days after falling ill and has been placed on a ventilator, leading his family to share the news as his condition worsened.
5. Laine Hardy
American Idol season 17 winner Laine Hardy shared in a Facebook post in June 2020 that he was diagnosed with COVID-19 during a doctor’s visit.
“This wasn’t what I expected on the first day of summer,” he wrote on his social media account, adding that his symptoms are mild, and he is quarantining at home. Fans then flooded the comments with well wishes for a quick recovery for the 21-year-old singer.
6. Parker McCollum
Parker McCollum was forced to cancel a pair of socially distanced, mask-mandated shows last August 2020 after testing positive for COVID-19. It could have been McCollum’s first show after several months of being off the road.
The rising country star shared on social media that he decided to get tested when he noticed that he could not taste or smell anything during this morning’s breakfast. And as expected, the results came back positive.
He went on letting fans know that he feels great but has to quarantine for 14 days at his ranch in Texas to protect others.
7. Tyler Hubbard
Florida Georgia Line was slated to perform at the 54th Annual Country Music Association Awards – which were held on November 11, 2020, at the Music City Center in Nashville – but failed to do so, after one-half of the duo Tyler Hubbard shared the bad news that he has tested positive for Covid-19.
Hubbard posted a note on his Instagram page saying he was asymptomatic and quarantining on his bus outside his home. “Quarantining on bus. Miss my family. Writing songs. Thankful,” Hubbard wrote in the caption.
8. Lee Brice
Lee Brice was another artist who was forced to cancel his appearance at last year’s Country Music Association Awards due to a positive test for Covid-19. Brice had been slated to sing “I Hope You’re Happy Now” with Carly Pearce – which won Musical Event of the Year and was nominated for Music Video of the Year.
A spokesperson of Brice announced that the country star is “in good spirits” – he did not experience any symptoms and was only isolated at home.
9. Charley Pride
Charley Pride, who was the genre’s first major Black star and was known for such hits as “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'” and “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone?” passed away from complications of Covid-19. The legendary singer died on December 12, 2020, in Dallas at 86 – a month after his performance at the 54th Annual CMA Awards in Nashville.
This led to Some artists questioning if Pride might have become infected at the show, to which CMA and Pride’s representatives said that the singer had been tested multiple times before and after the event, and all tests came back negative.
10. Ray Benson
Ray Benson, the frontman of Grammy-winning country band Asleep at the Wheel, announced in April 2020 that he has tested positive for COVID-19.
The 70-year-old Texas country music icon became bedridden with headaches, extreme fatigue, and dizziness, but it took several days before doctors gave him a test for the virus. Luckily, his symptoms have not included fever or coughing.
A week before he contracted the virus, Benson hosted an online concert called ‘Til Further Notice – a five-hour live-streamed fundraiser event intended to generate money for musicians affected by COVID-19.
11. Jennifer Wayne
The country musician and granddaughter of John Wayne turned to social media last April 15, 2020, to share the news of her COVID-19 diagnosis. Though she was initially hesitant to disclose the information publicly, she decided to do so because a lot of people have contacted her and asked her how she overcame the health crisis.
Wayne, who believed she got the virus at the grocery store as it’s the only place she’s been besides home, was grateful for “great advice from doctors, friends, and family” that helped her quickly recover.
12. Tricia Yearwood
One of country music’s biggest couples had to quarantine at home in Tennessee early this year after they were both exposed to a COVID-19 positive member of their team. The pair had to delay getting tested because of “severe winter weather,” but when they finally did, Yearwood’s result came back positive. She even dealt with some symptoms.
Still, the “Friends in Low Places” singer chose to quarantine with his wife. “Anyone who knows me knows my world begins and ends with Miss Yearwood, so she and I will ride through this together,” Brooks said.
13. Luke Bryan
In April 2021, Luke Bryan announced on his Twitter account that he would not be able to join the season’s first live American Idol episode on ABC after testing positive for COVID-19.
Meanwhile, a post on the American Idol Twitter account wished the country star a speedy recovery and announced that Paula Abdul, one of the talent show’s original judges, would be Bryan’s temporary replacement for the episode, joining Lionel Richie and Katy Perry on the panel.
In addition to missing American Idol, Bryan was also not able to appear on the Academy of Country Music Awards, where he was slated to pre-tape his performance. Still, he received ACM’s top honor, winning Entertainer of the Year.
14. Reba McEntire
At the beginning of August this year, Reba McEntire said in a TikTok live stream that she and her boyfriend, Young Sheldon star Rex Linn, had both contracted COVID-19 despite both of them being fully vaccinated.
The country star said she had all the symptoms, so she decided to get tested, which came back positive. But in an interview, McEntire revealed that when she had her antibodies tested, it was found out that she had another common viral illness: respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). The symptoms were similar to COVID-19, although nowhere near the death rate.
15. Larry Gatlin
In a press release, a representative of Larry Gatlin revealed that the country legend has tested positive for COVID-19 on March 8. This comes just four days after he received his second vaccination.
“My symptoms were a cough and feeling a little funky,” Gatlin said, adding that he also experienced slight body aches and chest cold, which was gone after three days.
Though he quickly recovered, the “All the Gold in California” hitmaker is mourning the loss of his father, William Wayne “Curley” Gatlin. The older Gatlin passed away in November 2020 after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
16. Lauren Alaina
Joining the growing list of celebrities that have contracted COVID-19 is Lauren Alaina, who was forced to cancel an acoustic show at the Rupp Arena in Lexington after testing positive with the virus last March. She was supposed to appear with Jon Pardi, Jordan Davis, Travis Denning, and Priscilla Block.
Alaina said her symptoms didn’t develop past shortness of breath and “a horrible headache,” though she was so frustrated to have a positive test after taking the pandemic seriously. “I rarely even go to the grocery store, but it’s a very contagious virus, and I picked it up somewhere,” the country star explained.
17. Laura Bell Bundy
Actress and country singer Laura Bell Bundy has announced via Instagram last March 2020 that she has tested positive for COVID-19. In the video, Bundy explained that her symptoms were minor. She experienced headache, sore throat, tightness in her chest, and shortness of breath for a few weeks.
Before the pandemic hit, Bundy had been working on a women’s history sketch comedy pilot for Freeform as well as on the TV show “Perfect Harmony” – both were put off indefinitely due to the quarantine.
18. Kalie Shorr
Rising country singer Kalie Shorr announced that she’s tested positive for COVID-19 in a series of tweets last March 2020, saying she contracted the virus despite immediately going on full lockdown except for a handful of trips for groceries.
She went on saying that the first few days were absolutely miserable as she suffered severe body pains, high fever, and complete loss of sense of taste and smell, something she never felt like before. “Although my symptoms were mild in comparison, it’s very scary to have something so uncharted swimming around in your body,” she said.
19. Mark Chesnutt
Last August, Mark Chesnutt announced on his Twitter account that he and his wife Tracie have both contracted COVID-19. The diagnosis came as the ’90s hitmaker was recovering from back surgery.
It was in early July when Chesnutt’s team announced that he would be canceling all of his upcoming shows due to urgent surgery to correct a back problem the singer had been suffering with for quite some time. He went under the knife on July 22 and reported that everything went as planned.
And according to a recent update, Chesnutt has recovered well and is now back on the road.
20. Zac Brown
The Zac Brown Band had to cancel a handful of upcoming dates on “The Comeback Tour” after lead singer Zac Brown tested positive for COVID-19. Brown said on his Instagram account last September 28 that he has tested positive for the virus “despite taking precautions.”
Four shows in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York were called off, which were supposed to run from September 30 through October 3. Fans with tickets to those shows will receive a full refund. The tour will resume once he’s finished with his required quarantine, and it’s once again safe to work together with his bandmates and crew.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) continue to urge individuals to keep on wearing masks and practice physical and social distancing – most especially that the delta variant increases in many parts of the world. Let’s continue to stay safe during the pandemic.
Charley Pride, Jennifer Wayne, Joe Diffie, John Prine, Kalie Shorr, laine hardy, Larry Gatlin, Laura Bell Bundy, Lauren Alaina, Lee Brice, Luke Bryan, Mark Chesnutt, Parker McCollum, Ray Benson, Reba McEntire, Rita Wilson, Sturgill Simpson, Tricia Yearwood, Tyler Hubbard, Zac Brown