CINCINNATI — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine took President Joe Biden to task Tuesday over his vaccine mandate.
DeWine said the mandate drags the public focus away from science and into politics. It is a problem one Cincinnati doctor tackled with a head-turning policy of her own.
"I believe in this strongly enough that I'm willing to take the risk of a backlash," said Dr. Lisa Larkin.
Larkin instituted a policy of charging unvaccinated people $60 for a COVID-19 test each time they visit her office. Larkin's new policy has surprised a number of her patients.
Larkin said she instituted the policy in early August, the same week someone sued Forest Hills Schools over a board vote requiring masks and a Kentucky judge ruled Gov. Andy Beshear's mask mandate went too far.
There were also protests and rallies over vaccine mandates in Washington and California during the same time period.
"(I decided to) be a voice of reason and to advance what we know to be good medicine and good science and what's really the truth, which is vaccination is better," Larkin said.
Larkin's group of independent physicians first required all employees to get shots, then gave patients, families and visitors choices: Either bring proof of vaccination, pay for tests, use telehealth or leave.
Larkin said while some have left her practice, she's gained as many new patients as she has lost.
That has included a previously unvaccinated couple who changed their minds after one visit.
"I am sad always to lose patients but really feel the good about the fact if I had any positive impact about encouraging even those two people, and I hope it's more than that, to go and get vaccinated," Larkin said. "It's all about trying to do the right thing for patients. It's just become political, which is unfortunate."
Meanwhile, Gov. DeWine pleaded with people to boost vaccination rates in one of his latest press briefings.
"Please get vaccinated," DeWine said. "It means everything right now."
And administrators from Ohio's six hospitals for children report surges that are straining staff in unsustainable ways.
Cincinnati Children's Medical Center Hospital reportedly has more patients in intensive care on ventilators, crowding emergency rooms and in urgent cares than at any point during the pandemic.
And superintendents of local schools are requiring staff and students to wear masks while insisting vaccinating more of those eligible helps, too.
Still, DeWine and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost are discussing suing the federal government over President Biden's mandate ordering companies with 100 workers or more to require vaccinations or weekly testing.
"I just think it's a mistake and I think it gums up the works as we try to stay focused on what we want to stay focused on, and that is the science behind vaccinations," DeWine said.