Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Special Olympics eliminates COVID-19 vaccine mandate for 2022 USA Games after Florida threatens $27.5M fine

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The Special Olympics is lifting its COVID-19 vaccine requirement for the 2022 USA Games, which are set to begin in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday. The reversal occurred after Florida threatened the organization with a $27.5 million fine ($5,000 per athlete) for violating a state law against requiring proof of vaccination or post-infection recovery. 

The Special Olympics released an official statement on Friday, saying the decision was “based upon the Florida Department of Health’s interpretation of Florida law.” The state reportedly sent a letter via email on June 2 saying the health department made repeated attempts to avoid imposing fines, but the Special Olympics was failing to comply. 

After the vaccine mandate was dropped, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held a press conference to commend the organization for its decision.

“This will be a relief to a lot of the athletes,” DeSantis said. “There’s a significant number of them who were in limbo up until this week.”

With the Special Olympics changing its vaccine requirement, those who registered but were not able to attend based on the previous mandate are now allowed to participate. Over 5,500 athletes and coaches from the U.S. and Caribbean will take part in this year’s event, according to the organization’s website. Additionally, 20,000 volunteers and 125,000 spectators are expected to be in attendance.

The 2022 USA Games will take place June 5-12 in Orlando. 

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