AUBURN, Ala. (EETV) - In an effort to study and reduce the high positivity rate of COVID-19 among the college-aged demographic, Auburn University has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct a study on mask use behaviors. Other universities across the United States have also partnered with the CDC to conduct similar studies, but Auburn is the first and only university in the state of Alabama to do so. This partnership comes as a result of a call from the Alabama Department of Public Health to address the high infection rate of COVID-19 on college campuses.

The mask use observational study that the university is conducting involves measuring the proportion of people who are: wearing masks, wearing masks correctly, and wearing different types of masks. Such types of masks include: N95, surgical, cloth, gaiter, and others. 

Undergraduate and graduate students across campus are performing data collection and have been trained directly by the CDC. Those data collectors will observe and record indoor mask use at 10 different on-campus locations and 10 different off-campus locations for 6 weeks. So far, a total of 1,444 observations have been recorded by data collectors across the first three weeks of the study. Results look like this through those first three weeks:

  • On-campus mask use compliance at an average of 88.70%

  • Off-campus mask use compliance at an average of 89.84%

  • Cloth masks were the most common type of mask observed in use, worn by 61.14% of individuals. Surgical masks followed at 31.95%, then neck gaiters at 4.68%, N95 next at 1.60%, followed by the other category at .62%.

  • At on-campus locations, masks were correctly worn an average of 86.92% of the time. At off-campus locations, masks were correctly worn an average of 88.95% of the time.

The averages show high levels of mask wearing compliance, but across the first three weeks of the study, observers noted a slight decline in on-campus mask wearing. Weekly data collection will continue to illustrate mask wearing trends on and off the Auburn University campus.

The CDC recommends the following when it comes to wearing masks. “Make sure your cloth mask: fits snugly but comfortably against the side of the face, completely covers the nose and mouth, is secured with ties or ear loops, includes multiple layers of fabric, allows for breathing without restriction, and can be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape.” Cloth masks should not be worn by children under 2 years old or anyone who has difficulties breathing or cannot remove the mask without assistance.