The State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee discussed the reopening of schools when it met online last Thursday.

“School opening is an engine for all the other respiratory viruses,” said Dr. Jonathan Temte, a UW-Madison family medicine professor and member of the committee. “This is going to be a nightmare for our school districts.”

The state committee, created this spring by the Department of Health Services to help the state respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, didn’t discuss formal action regarding schools. The group talked about recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics last month that students should be “physically present in school” as much as possible.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised that remote learning is safest and social distancing should be enforced for in-person classes.

President Donald Trump on July 8 threatened to cut federal funding for districts that don’t resume classes in person, and Vice President Mike Pence said the CDC would soften its recommendations. CDC director Robert Redfield told ABC Thursday the agency won’t revise its guidelines but will provide additional information.

Detailed guidance for schools, such as the pediatrics association recommendations, can reduce problems but the situation will still be difficult, said Dr. Silvia Munoz-Price, a committee member and infectious diseases specialist at Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin.

“It’s very optimistic and potentially dangerous,” Munoz-Price said. “I am not very hopeful that guidance is going to work as we think it’s going to work.”

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