Balancing incomplete COVID-19 evidence and local priorities: Risk communication and stakeholder engagement strategies for school re-opening

Anna G. Hoover, Wendy Heiger-Bernays, Sweta Ojha, Kelly G. Pennell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, United States (U.S.) educational institutions must weigh incomplete scientific evidence to inform decisions about how best to re-open schools without sacrificing public health. While many communities face surging case numbers, others are experiencing case plateaus or even decreasing numbers. Simultaneously, some U.S. school systems face immense infrastructure challenges and resource constraints, while others are better positioned to resume face-to-face instruction. In this review, we first examine potential engineering controls to reduce SARS-CoV-2 exposures; we then present processes whereby local decision-makers can identify and partner with scientists, faculty, students, parents, public health officials, and others to determine the controls most appropriate for their communities. While no solution completely eliminates risks of SARS-CoV-2 exposure and illness, this mini-review discusses engaged decision and communication processes that incorporate current scientific knowledge, school district constraints, local tolerance for health risk, and community priorities to help guide schools in selecting and implementing re-opening strategies that are acceptable, feasible, and context-specific.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-37
Number of pages11
JournalReviews on Environmental Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research funding: The project described is supported by University of Kentucky Superfund Research Program Grant P42 ES007380, the Boston University Superfund Research Program Grant P42 ES007381, by UK-CARES Grant P30 ES026529 from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, by Grant Number 1452800 from the National Science Foundation, and by Award Number G08LM013185 from the National Library of Medicine. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Library of Medicine or the National Science Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 De Gruyter. All rights reserved.


  • Airborne transmission
  • COVID-19
  • Children health
  • Indoor air
  • Stakeholder engagement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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