Some members of KISS's road crew believe longtime guitar tech Francis Stueber would still be alive today if the 'End of the Road' tour's COVID-19 safety protocols were up to a higher standard.
Stueber was a fixture on the road with Kiss and frontman Paul Stanley's solo projects since 2002. He died due to complications from COVID-19 on October 17 at age 52 while quarantining in a Detroit hotel room.
Kiss canceled its concert that night in Ohio and Stanley mourned Stueber's passing with a series of statements and photos posted via social media. Later that same week, Gene Simmons railed against COVID vaccine hesitancy and anti-maskers during an appearance on Good Morning Britain.
Three members of Kiss's road crew tell Rolling Stone that they have long felt the tour should be doing more to keep everyone safe.
"Every day during the shows, we weren't tested — and there are so many unknowns," one crew member said. "Did we super-spread this? Did we spread this thing from city to city?"
Kiss touted its COVID safety measures before resuming the 'End of the Road' tour this summer. A production executive told Rolling Stone that all crew members have been required to wear masks backstage and prove vaccination to work. Departments were separated into pods and workers who tested positive for the virus were sent to hotels to quarantine on Kiss's dime. Contacts of crew members who tested positive would also be tested before returning to the job.
But the unnamed crew members tell Rolling Stone that masks are often not properly worn and testing was not regular enough. Furthermore, the tour's COVID compliance officer was let go before the tour began, leaving those duties to the production team.
They claim that approximately 13 members of the band's 70-person road team have had COVID since August. Crew members recall seeing Stueber coughing and struggling to breathe while working in the days before his death. He reportedly did not get a COVID test until a few days before he passed.
Fewer than two weeks into the tour, Stanley and Simmons each tested positive for the virus. The tour was suspended for two weeks as the band co-founders recovered. But crew members say the band did not suspend any tour dates due to crew getting sick. The only postponement related to a crew member testing positive for COVID was following Stueber's death.
Management, they claim, discouraged routine testing to "avoid the complications of a positive test." The crew members say they rarely received notice when a colleague tested positive and went into quarantine.
In a statement, Kiss explained that the 'End of the Road' tour's COVID protocols "most often exceeded, federal, state, and local guidelines. But ultimately this is still a global pandemic and there is simply no foolproof way to tour without some element of risk." They added that it is "impossible to police the crew" during every minute of work, let alone during time off.
"We are profoundly heartbroken at the loss of Francis," Kiss said in a statement. "He was a friend and colleague of 20 years. There is no way to replace him. Millions of people have lost someone special to this horrific virus, and we encourage everyone to get vaccinated. Please protect yourself and your loved ones."