KISS deny lax COVID protocol claims after death of guitar tech

Francis Stueber, who'd worked with the band for over 20 years, died last month

KISS have denied allegations of slack COVID protocols on tour after their long-serving guitar tech died last month after testing positive for coronavirus.

The rock veterans claimed that their protocols “met, but most often exceeded” guidelines at national and local level while on the US leg of their farewell End of the World tour.

But three crew members who spoke to Rolling Stone on condition of anonymity have, in light of Francis Stueber’s death, disputed that adequate measures were in place. The 53-year-old guitar tech tested positive for the disease, quarantined in a hotel and died days later on October 17.

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A roadie claimed to the publication: “Every day during the shows, we weren’t tested. And there are so many unknowns. Did we superspread [COVID], did we spread this thing from city to city? It’s horrible that Fran passed, and it’s horrible if this is our protocol just for us to tour. Is this going to be the normal, to stick someone in a hotel and if somebody dies, ‘Oh, well, off to the next guy?'”

KISS, however, issued a statement alleging that their safety protocols “met, but most often exceeded, federal, state, and local guidelines”.

“Ultimately this is still a global pandemic and there is simply no foolproof way to tour without some element of risk.

“If certain crew chose to go out to dinner on a day off, or have beers at a local bar after the show, and did so without a mask or without following protocols, there is little that anyone can do to stop that. Particularly when many of our tour markets did not have any state or local mask mandates in place.”

They also claimed: “We are now aware there were crew members who attempted to conceal signs of illness, and when it was discovered, refused medical attention… Furthermore, it has recently been brought to our attention that certain crew members may have provided fake vaccination cards which, if true, we find morally reprehensible (as well as illegal), putting the entire tour in harm’s way.”

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KISS added they were “profoundly heartbroken” by Stueber’s death and reiterated their message for people to get vaccinated against the virus.

Conflicting accounts with regards to COVID protocols, however, remain from the anonymous crew members. A second roadie claimed: “I couldn’t believe how unsafe it was, and that we were still going. We’d been frustrated for weeks, and by the time Fran died, I just thought, ‘You have to be fucking kidding me.'”

KISS’ production manager Robert Long confirmed to Rolling Stone that daily testing was not implemented. He added that his team offered KISS options for how frequently to test when determining COVID protocols before the band made their decision, and said that he did nothing to discourage testing.

“I never told anyone we didn’t want to test them,” Long said. “If you wanted a test, we’d supply it. If you wanted to get tested, if you felt symptoms, if you think someone might be sick, please raise your hand.

“We had thermometers on every bus, sheets to write down temperatures every morning, mask boxes, and sanitisers everywhere. People were getting tested every other day, we ordered tests regularly. I’m not going to not test people; I take this shit seriously.”

His claims conflict with some of the roadies’, which allege that tour management was vocal about not wanting to test in order to avoid the complications of a positive result, which Long, the executive, and the band have disputed.

“People [who tested positive for COVID] were sent into mandatory quarantine paid for by the band and denied their efforts to travel while potentially infected,” KISS told Rolling Stone. “Medical care was offered at every step of the way.”

According to the anonymous crew, Stueber, who’d worked with KISS for more than two decades, was one of approximately 13 crew workers on the nearly 70-person tour team who’d caught COVID after the tour resumed in September.

They added in their claim that, until Stueber’s death, none of the crew’s COVID cases caused any concert postponements. Some crew members had mild symptoms, some more noticeable and some were asymptomatic. Stueber is the only one who has died.

At one point, the band went on a brief hiatus after KISS bandmembers Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley tested positive for the virus in August.

Live Nation, which has hosted KISS tour shows, requires its own employees to be vaccinated. It requires proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test for attendees and crew at its own venues but individual tour travel practices and protocols are up to acts.

The company declined to comment on record for Rolling Stone‘s story.

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