'Here & Now' Highlights: Zac Schultz, Ann Zenk, Dr. Jasmine Zapata, McCoshen & Ross

Here's what guests on the March 15, 2024 episode said about absentee ballot drop boxes, hospital staffing shortages, COVID-19 four years later and the prospects of the Biden-Trump rematch in Wisconsin.

By Frederica Freyberg | Here & Now

March 18, 2024

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Frederica Freyberg sits at a desk on the Here & Now set and faces a video monitor showing an image of Zac Schultz.

Frederica Freyberg and Zac Schultz (Credit: PBS Wisconsin)

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has fast-tracked consideration of an appeal to its 2022 decision to prohibit the use of absentee ballot drop boxes — Here & Now senior political reporter Zac Schultz considered the implications. Nurse shortages plague hospitals across the state, impacting patients, staff and health system budgets, and the Wisconsin Hospital Association’s Ann Zenk discussed findings in the organization’s annual workforce report. Four years after the COVID-19 struck state epidemiologist Dr. Jasmine Zapata discussed lingering effects of the pandemic. Political panelists Bill McCoshen and Scot Ross said voters should be ready to gear up for a long presidential campaign season in Wisconsin.

Zac Schultz
Senior political reporter, Here & Now

  • The liberal majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed in an unsigned order to consider an appeal to a June 2022 ruling that absentee ballot drop boxes are not allowed in elections and that ballots must be personally delivered to municipal clerks. A dissent authored by Justice Rebecca Bradley and joined by Chief Justice Annette Ziegler harshly condemned the action, calling it “another shameless effort by the majority to readjust the balance of political power in Wisconsin.” The conservative justices also expressed concern that overturning the high court’s previous decision could sow chaos for election officials so close to the 2024 election.
  • Schultz: “It’s unlikely in the sense that the Supreme Court is fast-tracking this. They want oral arguments by May, a likely decision by June. So it will be plenty of time before we get to the August primary and November before a decision would have to come up in that case. So the decision would be in place. It’s unlikely that it could be appealed to the United States Supreme Court, so that decision would be final.”


Ann Zenk
Senior vice president of workforce and clinical practice, Wisconsin Hospital Association

  • Gov. Tony Evers has once again urged the Legislature to release $15 million dollars to help support health care in western Wisconsin with the impending closure of hospitals in Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls. These are closures the Wisconsin Hospital Association calls “unthinkable,” but are also part of feared results from ongoing staff shortages and financial pressures. In its 2024 Wisconsin Health Care Workforce Report, the group describes critical nursing shortages, which Zenk said have cascading effects on care and cost inside hospitals.
  • Zenk: “Health care professionals and hospitals – it’s our job to make sure patients get the care they need. But when there are staff shortages or interruptions in the continuum of care, patients wait longer. They might have to travel farther for care. They might even end up coming to the emergency department.”


Dr. Jasmine Zapata
Chief medical officer for community health, Wisconsin Department of Health Services

  • More than 16,000 people in Wisconsin have died as a consequence of COVID-19 infections following the initial state declaration of emergency in March 2020. Zapata said lessons learned include pandemic preparation and trust-building between public health officials and the public before such a dire outbreak emerges.
  • Zapata: “The fact that there were so many lives lost because of a distrust in a health care system, even because of lack of access, because of many different barriers — that’s heartbreaking. Those are some things that could have been prevented, but that was work that needed to be done years and even decades before the pandemic started. So I don’t think there’s any one thing that we could have done immediately at that time. The real work and prevention needed to start even years before the pandemic even occurred.”


Bill McCoshen and Scot Ross
Republican and Democratic political analysts

  • President Joe Biden visited Milwaukee as the general election phase of 2024 presidential campaign kicked off following the latest primaries making him and former President Donald Trump the presumptive nominees. McCoshen and Ross parried over the politics of a rematch and what it means for we the people.
  • McCoshen: “Most polls over the last several months have said this is the race no one wanted. Two-thirds of voters said they didn’t want a rematch from 2020, yet here we are. It’s Groundhog Day in America. We have not seen anything like this. A rematch of previous contenders in 68 years. Ike versus Adlai Stevenson was the last time we’ve seen anything like this. The last time we saw a former president run against a current president was 134 years ago: Grover Cleveland against Benjamin Harrison. So it’s pretty rare.”
  • Ross: “I’d say this. So, your house is on fire, and you’ve got an 81-year-old guy who comes from Scranton with a bucket of water, fire hose. And you got a guy, a 77-year-old from New York — or Florida — who comes with a gallon of gasoline. Which one are you going to hire to do the job that needs to be done, which is to put the fire out in your house? I mean, I think that this is Biden’s race to lose, but they’ve got to do all the work. And I care about Wisconsin. And clearly what happened in 2016 is never going to happen here again. Like, they will invest. They are investing heavily.”


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