"It will be a chance to demonstrate how to conduct an in-person pageant in the safest way possible," says 2019 Miss USA winner Cheslie Kryst

By Joelle Goldstein
August 31, 2020 10:00 AM
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Miss USA 2019 competition
The Miss Universe Organization

The 2020 Miss USA and Miss Teen USA competitions will officially go on with adjustments due to the pandemic, PEOPLE can exclusively reveal.

The Miss Universe Organization announced Monday that both competitions will be held live this year at Elvis Presley's iconic home, Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee on Nov. 7 and 9.

The annual pageants, which are typically held in the spring or early summer, will feature a live studio audience, but "capacity will be significantly reduced" and local guidelines will be followed, a MUO spokesperson tells PEOPLE. The event will mark one of the first times that a live audience has returned to telecasts amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The program is set to showcase the civil rights history of Memphis and feature reigning Miss USA Cheslie Kryst and Miss Teen USA Kaliegh Garris, who will both discuss their experiences as Black women and explore the state of race in America.

"I am glad the MUO has undertaken the challenge of moving forward with the competition while prioritizing the safety of contestants, their families and friends, and staff," Kryst, 29, tells PEOPLE in a statement. "Although this will not be a typical Miss USA competition, it will be a chance to demonstrate how to conduct an in-person pageant in the safest way possible."

Cheslie Kryst is crowned Miss USA 2019
Frank Micelotta/FOX/PictureGroup/REX/Shutterstock

Kryst, who became the oldest woman and the first practicing attorney to hold the Miss USA title, notes that delaying the competition a few months during the pandemic allowed her to take on many opportunities.

"My extended reign has been surprising, demanding, and rewarding all at once," she shares with PEOPLE. "The 2020 Miss USA Competition will be life-altering for the woman who wins, but it will also provide unimaginable opportunities for many others."

In an effort to protect people at the competition from COVID-19, the organization says it is working with the Shelby County government and health officials to develop health and safety protocols.

"More will be solidified in the coming months, but we are planning for all staff, contestants and crew to be tested before leaving for Memphis, and tested again when they arrive on site," a spokesperson tells PEOPLE. "Should a contestant or crew member test positive, they will then be isolated or sent home, if it safe to do so."

"We will also be conducting health screenings before every event, social distancing as much as possible and using working groups to keep the number of interactions low, all under the guidance of medical professionals," the spokesperson adds. "Additionally, audience capacity will be significantly reduced, in accordance with local protocols."

"We look forward to crowning a new Miss USA and Miss Teen USA in the historic city of Memphis," MUO president Paula M. Shugart said in a statement. "While this year’s competitions will look a little different as we adhere to crucial safety guidelines, we are excited to bring the thrill and excitement of the iconic Miss USA and Miss Teen USA competitions to homes across America."

Miss USA will air live on FYI Monday, Nov. 9 at 8 p.m. ET and Miss Teen USA will stream live on the Miss Universe Organization social channels Saturday, Nov. 7 at 9 p.m. ET.

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