ETSU Center for Rural Health Research publishes results of mask study

Published 11:02 am Friday, February 3, 2023

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Study focused on ETSU campus and the Johnson City community
JOHNSON CITY — During the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of graduate-level researchers at East Tennessee State University’s College of Public Health conducted a study to assess mask-wearing behaviors on the ETSU campus and the surrounding community.
The results of that study, “Mask Adherence to Mask Mandate: College Campus Versus the Surrounding Community,” were published online today in the Journal of Community Health.
The paper is a student-conducted research project overseen by research assistant professor Dr. Samuel Pettyjohn of the ETSU Center for Rural Health Research, located in the College of Public Health.
“We were able to take a national project from the CDC and make it relevant to what was happening in our region during the pandemic,” Pettyjohn said. “We allowed students to take the lead on this project to learn valuable research skills and get firsthand experience with publishing in a highly reputable academic journal.”
Eight ETSU graduate public health students conducted an observational study at five on-campus sites and five off-campus sites in Johnson City from Feb. 8, 2021, to April 30, 2021.
When the observations began, mask mandates were in place both on campus and in Washington County. On Feb. 20, 2021, the county-wide mask mandate in Washington County was lifted, but the campus mask mandate remained in effect. Data recorded included if individuals wore a mask, the type of mask and if the mask was worn correctly.
Some findings include:
* There was no significant difference between mask-wearing when the mask mandate was in place compared to when it was not in place (86% vs. 82%).
* Individuals observed at on-campus sites were more likely to wear masks than at off-campus observations (92% vs 75%).
* Most of the on-campus locations had at least 85% mask-wearing observed across all observation days, with the exception of one outdoor location.
* All off-campus locations had less than 85% mask-wearing observed across all observation days, with the lowest reported rate at an off-campus coffee shop (57%).
* The full report can be found online in the Journal of Community Health.

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