Special Olympics reverses COVID-19 vaccine mandate after Florida threatens $27.5 million fine

Special Olympics reverses COVID-19 vaccine mandate after Florida threatens $27.5 million fine

Competitors will no longer need a COVID-19 vaccine to participate in the Special Olympics.

The state of Florida and Gov. Ron DeSantis had threatened the Special Olympics with $27.5 million worth of fines over the organization’s vaccination requirements.

“In Florida, we want all of them to be able to compete. We do not think it’s fair or just to be marginalizing some of these athletes based on a decision that has no bearing on their ability to compete with honor or integrity,” DeSantis said at a news conference in Orlando.

“What connection that has to competing, I don’t understand,” DeSantis said of Covid-19 vaccines. “We’ve never seen something wielded like this vaccine to try to marginalize disfavored people.”

“And a lot of these special Olympians have also had Covid by now,” DeSantis said. “Most people have had it by now,” DeSantis went onto say.

The Florida Department of Health sent a letter, which was obtained and first reported by ABC News, to the organization this week explaining their intentions to fine them for violating statutes that prohibit businesses and charitable organizations in Florida from requiring proof of vaccination to enter.

Special Olympics officials rescinded the requirement Thursday in response and released a statement Friday ahead of the Games in Orlando: “Special Olympics, Inc. (SOI) announced on June 2, 2022, that it is lifting the vaccine requirement for delegation members attending the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games being held in Orlando, Florida, June 5-12, as required by state of Florida officials on May 27, based upon the Florida Department of Health’s interpretation of Florida law.”

Delegates who were registered for the games but not able to compete because of the prior vaccine requirement, are now allowed to attend.

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

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