American Idol judge Luke Bryan surprisingly made his return to the show on Sunday night after missing the first show due to a positive COVID-19 test. Before the new episode aired, Bryan shared a video on his social media pages telling fans he is "feeling awesome" after not being on the show last week. Idol producers got original Idol judge Paula Abdul to sit in for Bryan during the April 12 episode. Bryan also won Entertainer of the Year at the ACM Awards Sunday night, making an appearance via Zoom.
"Hey guys, it's Luke! I'm back," Bryan, 44, said in the video. "I"m feeling awesome and I'm so glad to be back at the judge's table. We're going to be live from Hollywood, coast-to-coast 8/7 central. Y'all tune in."
Bryan being cleared to appear on the show means that he has tested negative for at least two weeks, reports Variety. However, this calls into question the timeline of Bryan's experience with the virus. It was only on Monday, April 12 that Idol announced he tested positive and that Abdul would have to replace him. If Idol is still following its protocol, that means Bryan was testing negative when the announcement was made and he missed the episode out of an abundance of caution. Bryan and American Idol representatives have not commented on his situation.
Bryan reportedly had not received any COVID vaccinations before he tested positive. Unlike fellow judges Lionel Richie and Katy Perry, Bryan does not live in California, so he would have to go back to Tennessee for the vaccine. All adults living in Nashville were given clearance to get the vaccine on March 31. However, sources told Variety that Bryan did not immediately schedule his trip back to Tennessee so he could continue working in Los Angeles for Idol and to make a Jimmy Kimmel Live! appearance on April 7. Bryan did appear on Kimmel, but it is not clear when the appearance was taped or if he already had COVID at the time.
Bryan did fly back to Tennessee after he tested positive and was reportedly relaxing. It is not known if the singer was vaccinated before going back to Los Angeles. Variety's sources said that no one else working on Idol tested positive for the virus. The non-live episodes finished production on April 1, and the show was requiring every member of the audience to get a test. The audience members were required to wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines.
Bryan recently released the deluxe edition for his album Born Here Live Here Die Here and made several other appearances on shows to promote it earlier this month. All of them, including one on Good Morning America, were filmed remotely. He was set to appear during Sunday's ACM Awards on CBS as well, but he couldn't film his performance for the show. He still made a virtual appearance at the end to accept his Entertainer of the Year award from Los Angeles. Idol airs on Sundays and Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.