'Here & Now' Highlights: Dr. Jeffrey Pothof, Robin Vos

Here's what guests on the Jan. 7, 2022 episode had to say about the exploding COVID-19 numbers in Wisconsin and the fast-moving investigation into the 2020 election in the state.

By Frederica Freyberg | Here & Now

January 10, 2022

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From left to right, a split screen with Frederica Freyberg and Dr. Jeffrey Pothof seated in different locations

Frederica Freyberg and Dr. Jeffrey Pothof (Credit: PBS Wisconsin)

The daily number of new COVID-19 infections in Wisconsin continues to set pandemic records, hobbling hospitals and making it unsafe for all patients in urgent need of care, according to state health officials. Dr. Jeffrey Pothof is chief quality and safety officer for UW Health — one of the largest healthcare systems in the state — and says that’s true at his hospital. Republican Assembly Speaker, Robin Vos, defended the investigation into the 2020 election led by former Justice Michael Gableman, whom he appointed to conduct the probe.

Dr. Jeffrey Pothof
Chief Quality and Safety Officer, UW Health

  • The daily number of new COVID-19 cases surpassed 12,000 in Wisconsin on Jan. 7, with high case counts expected to continue. Health care providers are seeing an increase in hospitalizations despite the Omicron variant being less severe in general, partly due to the sheer number of infections.
  • Pothof: “When folks hear Omicron is less severe, I think they immediately think, ‘Well, it’s more like a cold. It doesn’t make people sick. Why are hospitals worried?’ That’s not what we mean when we say less severe. When we say less severe, we mean that if you take 100 people and you give them Omicron, a lower percent of those people will need a hospital bed. But it’s not to say that Omicron cannot cause severe disease. What we see in the unvaccinated is they make up a significant majority of the cases that get admitted into the hospital, and they don’t just stay for a day or two days. Sometimes they stay for a week, two weeks, sometimes months, on high-end therapies that take a lot of our rooms up and a lot of our staff resources up. If we could reduce that … folks in the state wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not a hospital is going to be ready for them when they suffer their medical emergency.”
  • Not only have hospitals lost staff to absences due to breakthrough COVID-19 infections, but burnout is prompting some employees to leave their jobs as the pandemic continues to take its toll.
  • Pothof: “Not only have I never seen anything like this, this wasn’t even on my radar going through medical training. We have one of the most well-resourced health care systems in the entire world. And to think that we’re at the point where people who need care for things like heart attacks [and] strokes might not be able to get it, that never crossed my mind when I was going through medical training that that would be the scenario where I work.”


Rep. Robin Vos
Wisconsin Assembly Speaker, Republican

  • Gov. Tony Evers believes Republicans in Wisconsin are attacking democracy with lies surrounding the legitimacy of the 2020 election. Evers called the investigation run by former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman at the Speaker’s behest a “clown show.” Vos says Evers is in “campaign mode.”
  • Vos: “This is not about somehow overturning the election or ruining democracy, but it is about making sure that we have faith in the results. Whoever wins, whoever loses — and I think we clearly know now we’ve had the Legislative Audit Bureau, we’ve had an investigation by the Wisconsin Institute of Law and Liberty and the final investigation being done by Justice Gableman — all are going to show that we had issues. The first two clearly did. I’m certain the last one will as well. So for Gov. Evers to imply somehow that the well-respected nonpartisan Audit Bureau was attacking democracy and on a witch hunt, that’s not even accurate — it’s just a bold-faced lie … I think history is going to judge that things were not done correctly in 2020, and all we can do is try to make it better and that’s what we’re attempting to do.”


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