ETSU Public Health students finish CDC assistance for mask survey

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – East Tennessee State University students took their lessons to task assisting the CDC with local observation of mask-wearing behavior over the spring semester.

According to a press release by ETSU, 11 students of the Master’s in Public Health program served for a total of four months in the CDC MASCUP! (Mask Adherence Surveillance at Colleges and Universities) program starting on February 8, 2021.

Led by Dr. Sam Pettyjohn, research assistant professor at ETSU, students collected over 3,000 separate data entries regarding mask behavior on and off-campus.

“Just learning about what was going on in real-time and having a kind of window into what was propagating nationally I was getting a sense of what was happening right there in our community,” ETSU Assistant Research Professor Dr. Sam Pettyjohn said. “It was really interesting and cool.”

ETSU was chosen out of 66 locations across the country.

“We were selected both for our geographical location, and we have a center that focuses primarily on the rural folks in our region and across the country,” Pettyjohn said.

The release states that observation technique included training to spot specific “mask-wearing faux pas,” such as wearing masks below the nose or chin, in five areas on-campus as well as five areas in the surrounding community.

Notable findings from the study can be found here, and include:

  • 85 percent of on-campus observations noted full adherence, while 73 percent of off-site observations were found to adhere to CDC guidelines.
  • 70 percent of masks observed were made of cloth, while 25 percent were disposable surgical masks. One percent of mask wearers had N95 masks.
  • According to the release, some locations on campus documented 100% mask adherence.

In addition to combating the spread of COVID-19, students also enjoyed the opportunity to learn skills in the field.

“I really enjoyed working with the students because they really ran the project in the sense that they took it and ran with it,” Pettyjohn said. “We were up and running longer than some of the other sites.”

“Part of the call of a public health researcher in a situation like this is to be on the ground collecting data that have the power to tell a story about history, or to inform the public health decisions,” said Ahauve Orusa. “Being on the ground collecting data for the CDC has been an amazing opportunity that has the potential to be used in so many ways for learning.”

For more information regarding MASCUP! and ETSU’s Public Health research efforts, click here.

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