The Special Olympics opens a vaccine mandate for its U.S. Games

The Special Olympics lifted the requirement for a corovirus vaccine for athletes and staff at the U.S. Games in Orlando, Florida, this weekend after Florida threatened a $ 27.5 million fine over its mandate.

In an international letter to the Special Olympics on Thursday, state health officials said the vaccine requirement violates Florida law, which prohibits businesses and charities from requesting proof of vaccination against the virus. The law allows the state Department of Health to impose a $ 5,000 fine on each individual who is asked to submit proof of vaccination, the letter said. About 5,500 participants are expected to attend the Games, which start Sunday at Disney World and the ESPN Sports Complex and run through June 12.

The Special Olympics mandate will be lifted “as required” by the state, “based on the Florida Department of Health’s interpretation of Florida law,” the statement said. statement Published by the organization on Thursday. He added that those who registered for the Games but were unable to attend due to a vaccine request would now be able to attend and that he was “doing his best” to accommodate those participants.

Talking Press conference On Friday, Governor Ron Desantis said the special Olympics vaccine requirement had nothing to do with competition and was unfairly targeting a marginalized group.

“Following special Olympians who only wanted to compete was not in line with Florida law, and that’s not right,” he said. “Let them compete. We want everyone to be able to compete. ”

Mr Desantis, a Republican who has long opposed a pandemic approach, has refused to impose restrictions and block vaccine and mask mandates, saying: Did not have.

To participate in the competition, special Olympians must have intellectual disabilities, cognitive impairment or significant learning or professional limitations. A 2021 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that a person with an intellectual disability was the “strongest independent risk factor” for infection with the virus, and that people with such disabilities were at a “substantially increased risk of death” from Covid-19.

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