The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee has announced it will require every member of its delegation at the 2022 Beijing Olympics to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
In a policy dated Tuesday and posted on Team USA's web site, the USOPC announced a vaccine mandate for all of its staff members, athletes and contractors beginning Nov. 1. The organization also said the mandate will "extend to all Team USA delegation members or hopefuls for future Games" as of Dec. 1.
"While we were hopeful that we would be lifting our COVID-19 restrictions by the time the flame was extinguished at the Tokyo 2020 Games, the stark reality is that this pandemic is far from over," USOPC chief executive officer Sarah Hirshland wrote in a letter obtained by USA TODAY Sports.
"This step will increase our ability to create a safe and productive environment for Team USA athletes and staff, and allow us to restore consistency in planning, preparation and service to athletes."
The Associated Press first reported the new policy Wednesday.
The USOPC strongly recommended that athletes get vaccinated prior to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics this summer, but did not require them to do so. The organization's chief medical officer, Jonathan Finnoff, said on the day of the opening ceremony that about 83% of Team USA's athletes had reported that they were vaccinated, meaning that nearly 100 athletes at the Games were not.
It is unclear what percentage of Team USA athletes were vaccinated at the Paralympics that followed.
The USOPC's new vaccine mandate will apply to all athletes who access the organization's facilities, including its primary training center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Athletes will be permitted to request an exemption "for a legitimate medical reason or because of a sincerely held religious belief." Exempt athletes will be required to undergo daily testing for COVID-19.
The Winter Olympics in Beijing are slated to begin Feb. 4, less than six months after the conclusion of the Summer Games. They are expected to feature many of the same COVID-19 countermeasures that were implemented by Tokyo organizers, including regular testing and social-distancing requirements.
Contributing: Nancy Armour
Contact Tom Schad at email@example.com or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: USOPC: COVID vaccines required for 2022 Beijing Olympics delegation