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Coronavirus: Grand Ole Opry to perform without live audience

The Tennessean (Nashville) logo The Tennessean (Nashville) 3/21/2020 Matthew Leimkuehler, Nashville Tennessean
a group of people on a stage in front of a crowd: Ronnie Milsap performs during the An Opry Salute to Ray Charles concert at The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn., Monday, Oct. 8, 2018. © Andrew Nelles / Tennessean.com Ronnie Milsap performs during the An Opry Salute to Ray Charles concert at The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn., Monday, Oct. 8, 2018.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of being exposed to the coronavirus (COVID-19) for most people is low. The CDC recommends taking simple, everyday steps to avoid catching or spreading respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. These include covering your cough or sneeze and thoroughly washing or sanitizing your hands. Call your doctor and stay home if you are sick. Get more information at CDC.gov/coronavirus or contact the Tennessee Department of Health coronavirus information line at 877-857-2945 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. 

The circle remains unbroken this weekend as the Grand Ole Opry plans to continue its historic country music broadcast without a live audience. 

Opry shows will play without a ticketed audience through April 4, per a news release from the organization. The decision comes as fear of spreading the novel coronavirus continues to postpone live entertainment globally

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"Throughout the Opry's history, various events have led Opry management to make difficult decisions about how to alter the show's format," a statement said. 

"The Opry's first priority has always been the safety of our employees, guests and artists who have been key in keeping the show that made country music famous on the air every week for over 94 years." 

In closing doors to an audience, the Opry returns to its original barn dance format of nearly 100 years ago, when broadcasters first aired from the National Life and Accident Insurance Co. building in downtown Nashville. Audiences can listen online at opry.com or in Nashville on WSM 650 AM airwaves. 

The decision comes nearly a decade since the program last faced threat of missing a broadcast — when the Opry House went underwater during the 2010 Nashville flood. The flood prompted organizers to find temporary venues to maintain the show's immaculate and important live tradition.

Since launching in 1925, the Opry has broadcast for more than 4,600 consecutive Saturday nights, per its website. 

"It is widely believed that the Opry has cancelled its live Saturday night performance only once before, as on April 6, 1968, a curfew imposed by the city of Nashville following the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr’s assassination in Memphis two days earlier forced such a cancellation," the Opry shared. 

"For the only time in its history, that night’s Opry broadcast consisted of a previously taped performance. Opry patriarch Roy Acuff and other performers staged a makeshift show at a nearby square-dance hall for Opry fans that afternoon." 

Ticketholders to shows through April 4 can seek rebooking information at opry.com/contact. 

In a similar decision, the Ryman Auditorium announced postponement of all nighttime events through April 4. Nashville-based Ryman Hospitality owns and operates both venues. 

Live entertainment in Nashville and globally continues to quake in fear of spreading the coronavirus. Concert promotion giants Live Nation and AEG issued a joint statement Thursday that recommended all "large scale" events be postponed through the end of March. 

The staggering list of canceled or postponed events in Nashville includes Billie Eilish, Pearl Jam and the Zac Brown Band at Bridgestone Arena, as well as Nathaniel Rateliff, Coin and Dashboard Confessional at the Ryman Auditorium.

Local venue The 5 Spot closed for a month in wake of the coronavirus concerns; Brooklyn Bowl Nashville — a wildly anticipated new venue in Germantown — postponed this weekend's grand opening, saying doors would remain closed "until further notice." 

NHL and MLS, each with local affiliates, postponed respective leagues.  

As of Friday afternoon, the coronavirus reached at least 26 in Tennessee, per the Tennessee Department of Health.

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In a Thursday news conference, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee echoed that organizations hosting mass gatherings should take the decision-making process “very seriously.” 

“Every situation is different,” Lee said. "Every decision is different, and every decision has different implications. That’s why we are encouraging people to think long and hard about what those should be.” 

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Coronavirus: Grand Ole Opry to perform without live audience

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