WSU orders 4-H volunteers to get vaccinated
Those who choose not to get a shot will become 'inactive,' McCracken says
Last updated 9/9/2021 at 2:05pm
PULLMAN – The Washington State University Extension Office is applying the governor’s Wuhan coronavirus vaccination requirement to all 4-H volunteers.
In a letter dated Sept. 3, Extension Office Director Vicki A. McCracken gave all volunteers until Oct. 18 to prove they have been vaccinated or be removed from their post.
“… WSU is required to comply with Governor Inslee’s recent vaccination proclamation requirement,” McCracken wrote. “This health and safety proclamation that has been ordered by the governor includes employees, contractors and volunteers.”
The order from a university employee doesn’t sit well with Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, whose 9th Legislative District covers the mostly rural areas of Adams, Asotin, Franklin, Garfield, Whitman and southern Spokane Counties.
“It’s one thing for the state to mandate COVID vaccination requirements for state workers and education employees, but when this mandate is even imposed on 4-H volunteers, it makes you wonder where does this stop,” Schoesler said. “The end result could be fewer people volunteering in 4-H, which would hurt the kids who participate.
“And it will ultimately hurt Washington agriculture.”
Under the order, all WSU employees, students and volunteers – including 4-H volunteers – have to be “fully vaccinated or exempted” prior to Oct. 18.
“Volunteers who are not fully vaccinated or who do not have an approved exemption on file by October 18 will be put on inactive status,” she wrote. “They will not be able to engage in any volunteer activities with WSU Extension until proof of full vaccination can be observed or until an exemption request has been reviewed.”
McCracken asserts the agency can require vaccination of 4-H volunteers because the state-level organization falls under the auspices of Washington State University.
“WSU Extension will announce a county-level process for observing and recording documentation of vaccination status for volunteers,” she said.
The letter comes as the county fair season is winding down.
Over the last several weeks, there have been numerous county fairs – in which 4-H volunteers staff many of the booths, barns and other activities – across Eastern Washington.
The Lincoln County and Benton-Franklin fairs wrapped up who weeks ago and the Wheat Land Communities’ Fair ended Sunday in Ritzville.
The Whitman County/Palouse Empire Fair is currently under way in Colfax and the Spokane Interstate Fair is just getting started in Spokane.
The order from the university office also has Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, concerned about the future of the program.
“I’m hearing a great deal of concern from 4-H leaders around my district. Like other problems many businesses are seeing with hiring staff, this mandate will make it harder for this program to run effectively,” Warnick said. “Much of this program is conducted outside, where safety protocols can be implemented without trampling on people’s conscience or medical decisions.”
“4-H is a valuable experience for young people already suffering setbacks from isolation and mental health challenges due to how the state has handled the pandemic,” he said. “We shouldn’t be putting more obstacles in the way to their success,” Honeyford said.
Sen. Shelly Short, R-Addy, is questioning the need and why alternatives are not available.
“We have seen that Oregon and California have provided alternatives to vaccine mandates; we should do that here,” she said. “This mandate ignores individual choice, and I am concerned that we will lose valuable volunteers because of it.
“Our young people have suffered immeasurably during the last 18 months. Losing their 4-H leaders will only add to their burden.”