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Special Olympics Withdraws Vaccine Requirement After Florida Threatens Massive Fines

Florida threatened to levy $27.5 million in fines against the Special Olympics after the organization required vaccines for athletes.

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OCALA, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES - 2022/05/06: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference at Sam’s Club in Ocala, where he signed into law more than $1.2 billion in tax relief for Floridians, the largest tax relief package in Florida’s history. In an effort to combat inflation, taxes will be eliminated for varying periods of time on goods including fuel, children’s books, diapers, and home improvement items. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket (Getty Images)

Florida threatened to levy $27.5 million in fines against the Special Olympics after the organization required vaccines for athletes at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Florida next week. In a letter sent to Special Olympics International (SOI) on Thursday, the Florida Department of Health accused the organization of violating state law in its vaccine requirement.

The bullying via extortion tactics worked. The Special Olympics said it would nix the vaccine requirement for athletes. “For 54 years, Special Olympics has been brave in the attempt. We don’t want to fight. We want to play,” the organization said in a statement released Thursday.

Those exasperated words have since been deleted from the updated statement available Friday.

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State Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo said the state and the Special Olympics had been in talks for six months prior to levying the fines.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gloated on Friday morning” “This will be a relief to a lot of the athletes. There’s a significant number of them who were in limbo up until this week.”

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Adding to the ghoulishness of this situation, DeSantis and his wife Casey were named honorary co-chairs of the 2022 games.

Vaccines save lives. It’s unimaginable that Florida is using disabled athletes as a bargaining chip to be able to host a potential super-spreader event featuring a vulnerable population.

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Special Olympics athletes, like many dealing with medical disabilities, are a vulnerable group when it comes to covid. In October 2020, a study published in The Annals of Internal Medicine found that patients with Down syndrome who contract covid are four times more likely to be hospitalized than the general population, and they are 10 times more likely to die. Beyond a specific genetic condition, the Centers for Disease Control found that multiple disabilities put people at greater risk for covid complications.

This isn’t the only time this week DeSantis lashed out at organizations with differing political opinions. He vetoed millions for the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team new Spring Training facility after the team’s social channels decided to post anti-gun violence research during a game last week. CNN reported that while DeSantis publicly claimed that the veto was based on his general stance against funding stadiums, sources said it was the anti-gun violence tweeting that actually sealed the veto.