JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – A study conducted by eight East Tennessee State University (ETSU) graduate-level researchers during the COVID-19 pandemic found that mask-wearing on campus and in the community was not heavily influenced by mandates.

The results of the study, “Mask Adherence to Mask Mandate: College Campus Versus the Surrounding Community,” were published Monday in the Journal of Community Health, according to a release from ETSU. The goal of the study was to assess mask-wearing behavior on ETSU’s campus and in Johnson City from Feb. 8, 2021 to April 30, 2021.

At the start of the study, both Washington County and the university had active mask mandates. The county mandate was lifted shortly after on Feb. 20, but the campus mandate remained in effect.

The researchers observed mask-wearing tendencies on weekdays from five sites on ETSU’s campus and five sites in Johnson City. As part of the study, the researchers documented if people wore a mask, what kind of mask was worn and if it was worn correctly.

Findings state that a total of 3,262 individuals were observed over the course of the study. 587 of those people were observed before the countywide mandate was lifted.

Data collected found that “there was no significant difference between mask-wearing when the mask mandate was in place compared to when it was not in place.” The study reported 86% of people observed wore a mask while the county mandate was in place versus the 82% who wore one when mandates were lifted.

Additionally, the study determined people on ETSU’s campus in the time frame were more likely to wear a mask (92%) compared to people observed off-campus (75%).

The study found the overwhelming majority of masks worn (70%) were cloth, with surgical masks (25%) and neck gaiters (4%) being less common. N95 masks and other variations made up the remainder and were the rarest seen during the study.

Researchers concluded that their findings indicated institutional mandates like ETSU’s remained effective regardless of the existence of “surrounding governance mandates.” However, they also determined that the campus adherence to the mandate did decline after Washington County’s mandate was lifted, indicating a more localized mandate could be more effective.

The study also determined that the ability to correctly wear a mask was not tied to the status of mandates.

Research assistant professor Dr. Samuel Pettyjohn of the ETSU Center for Rural Health Research oversaw the study.

To see the full results of the study, click here.