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Florida Gov touts victory after Special Olympics removes vax mandate after he threatened $27.5m fine

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis touted the Special Olympics Committee’s decision to remove a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for participation in their games after he threatened a $27.5million fine.  

Just hours after the Florida Department of Health sent a violation letter to the Special Olympics Inc. (SOI), the committee announced it will no longer require athletes to be vaccinated against COVID-19. 

The governor threatened a $27.5million fine against the SOI for 5,500 violations. 

‘Your rights or your freedoms should not be circumscribed by your decision to take or not to take a COVID vaccine,’ DeSantis, 43, said at a press conference on Friday at Rio Pinar Golf & Country Club in Orlando. 

‘What connection [vaccinations] have to competing, I don’t understand,’ he touted. ‘Some of this stuff is – we’ve never seen something wielded like this vaccine to try to marginalize disfavored people — to try to deny people full freedom and full rights.

‘And to go after Special Olympians, who all they wanted to do was compete, was not consistent with Florida law and it’s not right thing to do. Let them compete! We want everybody to be able to compete.’ 

His speech was set with a wild applause as he stood with officials and special Olympians.  

The SOI, however, said they weren’t looking to pick a fight and also wanted athletes to compete.  

‘We don’t want to fight. We want to play,’ the SOI announced on Thursday, just days before the event is supposed to kick off on June 5 in Orlando. 

Governor Ron DeSantis (pictured on Thursday) signed a bill earlier this year that would companies, businesses, and schools $5,000 per violation if customers were required to show proof of vaccination

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis throws a pen after signing a record $109.9 billion state budget Thursday, June, 2, 2022 at The Villages

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis throws a pen after signing a record $109.9 billion state budget Thursday, June, 2, 2022 at The Villages

DeSantis has been vocal throughout the pandemic about mask and vaccine mandates. Florida was one of the first to drop mask mandate and has never allowed ‘vaccine passports,’ unlike many states, such as New York and California. 

The Republican signed a bill earlier this year allowing businesses, companies, and schools to be fined $5,000 per violation if it requires customers to show proof of vaccination. 

In a letter addressed to SOI, the Department of Health said the committee was ‘unable to bring the event into compliance’ with Florida statues by ‘denying access based on proof of vaccination.’ 

The department gave SOI 30 days to pay the fine. 

The SOI quickly moved to amend its ruling, stating that ‘delegates who were registered for the Games, but were unable to participate due to the prior vaccine requirements’ can now attend the Orlando event, which runs until June 12. 

The committee also said it has been ‘brave’ for the last 54 years to accommodate athletes – all of whom have intellectual or physical disabilities. 

DailyMail.com has contacted the SOI for comment. 

Florida has been a beacon throughout the pandemic, as officials oftentimes went against public health organizations’ recommendations as citizens and politicians alike rebuked mandates. 

The Special Olympics Inc. (SOI) said they didn't 'want to fight,' just to 'play' after announcing they would no longer require delegates to be vaccinated. It also said anyone that was denied due to their vaccination status would now be allowed to 'attend'

The Special Olympics Inc. (SOI) said they didn’t ‘want to fight,’ just to ‘play’ after announcing they would no longer require delegates to be vaccinated. It also said anyone that was denied due to their vaccination status would now be allowed to ‘attend’ 

The Florida Department of Health gave the SOI 30 days to pay the fine. The SOI has since changed its policies

The Florida Department of Health gave the SOI 30 days to pay the fine. The SOI has since changed its policies 

DeSantis also claimed earlier this year that Florida faired well during the pandemic, despite being a hotspot at points due to spring-breakers and summer travels. The Sunshine State has dropped significantly in cases since the Omicron outbreak in January, currently sporting a 19 percent positivity rate. 

Despite the governor’s consistent disapproval of all-things COVID-19, almost 70 percent of Florida citizens are fully vaccinated. 

It is unclear if the Republican leader himself is vaccinated or boosted, as he has consistently insisted that his vaccination status is a ‘private matter.’ 

‘That’s something that, you know, I think people should just make their own decisions on,’ he said in January. ‘I’m not going to let that be a weapon for people to be able to use. I think it’s a private matter.’ 

Even if he’s keeping his vaccine status tucked away, his administration isn’t being silent about his disapproval of the CDC potentially recommending children under the age of 5 becoming vaccinated for COVID-19. 

Florida health experts deemed the move ‘irresponsible.’ 

‘The Florida Department of Health is going to be the first state to officially recommend against the COVID-19 vaccines for healthy children,’ Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo said in March. 

Ladapo has become a controversial figure as he has previously pushing drugs like ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine as treatments for the virus, despite no evidence supporting them.

Some health experts have shown concerns about vaccinating kids, or doubts about their necessity, in recent months.

Children face little risk from COVID-19, with a ever-growing trove of data showing that they are not nearly as affected by it as adults are.

The CDC reports that children only account less than 0.1 percent of COVID-19 deaths in the US since the pandemic first began. 


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