Country superstar Garth Brooks, one of the few reliable stadium-fillers in the business, has canceled his remaining shows for 2021. The performer said refunds will be offered on the approximately 350,000 tickets that were sold for stadium gigs in five cities.

Brooks had previously indicated that he was rethinking upcoming dates, in light of spiking COVID rates. He’d previously done stadium shows in five cities this year.

“In July, I sincerely thought the pandemic was falling behind us,” Brooks said in a statement. “Now, watching this new wave, I realize we are still in the fight and I must do my part.”

He left open the possibility that he might schedule some new dates by the end of the year, but his reps say all the shows that were now on the books will have refunds automatically processed through Ticketmaster to the original form of payment, rather than postponing the concerts indefinitely and leaving ticketholders on the hook.

Brooks’ last tour date was Saturday night in Lincoln, Nebraska, at a show attended by nearly 90,000 fans, according to local press reports.

The nixed dates were slated for Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Sept. 18; Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte Sept. 25th; M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore October 2; Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts Oct. 9; and Nissan Stadium in Nashville, which had already been rained out a few weeks ago and was awaiting a rescheduling date.

“I have asked the wonderful cities of Cincinnati and Charlotte to wait too long, and I don’t want to now do that same thing to the great folks in Boston and Baltimore,” Brooks said. “As far as Nashville, we are looking for a make up date from the July rain-out and though this is not COVID-related, to make them wait makes me sad, as well. So, it is with a heavy heart we announce the decision to cancel all five shows but with a hopeful heart, we will reschedule and start over when this wave seems to be behind us.”

The artist’s wife, fellow performer Trisha Yearwood, contracted COVID over the summer, but Brooks himself did not come down with it.

“I’m sincerely hoping we are back on tour before the year’s end,” Brooks said in his statement. “With that said, the most important thing to me is fulfilling my end of the Stadium Tour by making sure every show is doable before putting tickets on sale (that is why we pulled the Seattle on sale) and making sure the environment these people are trading their time and money to put themselves into is not only the best experience ever, but also the safest one we can provide.”

He added, “The joy I have seen in everyone’s faces as live music returns has been more than worth our constant diligence to maintain safety protocols not only for the fans, but for our band, the crew and the hard working staff in these stadiums,” Brooks said. “Their dedication to safety for the people who fill those seats has been a miracle to watch and a blessing to receive. I am truly grateful.”

Brooks had plans for other shows later this year besides the five already on sale, but the artist is unique in tending to put his shows on sale one at a time, closer to the actual performance dates than is standard in the industry. He’d previously announced a Sept. 4 show in Seattle as well but stopped short of putting the concert on sale after expressing concerns about the endurance of the pandemic.

Brooks’ cautiousness stands in contrast with some other country performers who have downplayed ongoing pandemic conditions. When genre superstar Jason Aldean went on tour at the beginning of August, he made anti-masking statements the first few nights of the tour, to great applause and chants, as when he told a New York audience, “The coolest thing to me right now is that I’m looking out, seeing all you guys, and I don’t see one fucking mask. I’ve had just about enough of that shit.” Aldean is said to have subsequently dropped the nightly mask speech from his more recent shows.

Although a handful of other artists, from Stevie Nicks to Limp Bizkit, have preceded Brooks in canceling their upcoming shows — and festivals like New Orleans’ Jazz Fest and the Gulf Coast country festival in Florida have been called off — most are preceding, albeit with more stringent rules about masking, vaccination proof or negative tests in many cases. AEG Presents announced last week that, starting in October, proof of vaccination will be required for entry into all shows at its owned-and-operated venues. Live Nation is going forward with a less strict requirement, saying that either vaccination proof or a recent negative test will be necessary to get into its owned venues, also starting in October.

Meanwhile, L.A. County mandated Tuesday that masks will be required at all outdoor concerts with attendance over 10,000, which will include shows like an upcoming appearance by the Rolling Stones at SoFi Stadium as well as all Hollywood Bowl concerts. Mask requirements for indoor concerts in L.A. were already on the books.