Public Health, Biology and Psychology Students Act as Data Collectors for Nationwide Research Project 

Russell Sage College is one of 60 colleges participating in the nationwide Mask Adherence and Surveillance at Colleges and Universities Project.  

Known by the acronym MASCUP! and affiliated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the project is measuring the percentage of people wearing appropriate versus inappropriate face coverings on college campuses during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The results will help the CDC and college communities across the country to implement and communicate effective COVID mitigation measures.

Sage’s partnership with the CDC is also giving six Public Health, Biology and Psychology students valuable experience working on a multisite observational study. 

The students, trained in data collection, are posted at various locations on the Albany campus on a regular basis this spring, to record observations about whether passersby are wearing masks at all, wearing masks correctly, and what kind of masks are in use. 

“Those details [will] help us analyze for the future any steps that may be necessary to make a safer environment or to promote better health,” said Public Health major and data collector Abhishek Sharma ’22. 

For example, if observations show that people are covering their nose and mouth with bandanas and scarves, it may signal a need for signage with reminders about what the CDC recommends as an effective face covering. 

Public Health major and data collector Evena Backer ’22 appreciates being part of a project with both local and national applications. 

“This study is enhancing my Sage education because I get to work within my community, and the data I am collecting is not only giving me insight on my major, but it is also going into research information on the mask usage on college campuses,” she said. 

The College is also participating in a related survey in collaboration with the CDC, to find out how students feel about wearing masks. The survey will provide more information about why people may or may not comply with mask regulations. 

While the Public Health student-researchers won’t begin their formal data analysis until the summer, general observations have been encouraging, said Associate Professor of Public Health Dayna Maniccia, who is leading Sage’s involvement in MASCUP!    

“What we’re seeing is people being good about wearing masks,” she said. “We know we’re being good, and the data is supporting what we already have seen. We have really low rates of on-campus contagion. And it’s my personal opinion that it’s because our students are doing a fantastic job of following the guidelines. That says a lot for the community we have here.”

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