Study of NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament shows inconsistent mask-wearing

Tracking Coronavirus

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – APRIL 05: Fans of the Baylor Bears look on during the National Championship game of the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament between the Gonzaga Bulldogs and the Baylor Bears at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 05, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Health experts believe that sporting events, concerts and other large events could be responsible for spreading COVID-19 and its variants.

They believe transmission is increased because of the prolonged close contact between people who aren’t normally together.

Because of that, researchers from Regenstrief Institute, Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI and Resolve to Save Lives studied mask-wearing behavior among fans during the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

They found that even when a mask mandate is in place, behavior can be inconsistent.

Journal of the American Medical Association, or JAMA, published the study Monday.

Researchers observed people in attendance at five NCAA tournament games. Trained observers counted 22,000 spectators at entrance gates, concession areas, in seats, and at exit gates. Due to the pandemic, occupancy was limited to 22% inside the stadium.

The study found that 74% of those in attendance during the tournament wore masks correctly. That means the mask covered their nose, mouth, and chin. Researchers noted that the percentage is lower than the 80% threshold suggested by health experts to reduce the spread of the virus.

The majority of fans, 83%, wore masks correctly while in concession areas. About 80% of fans masked-up while entering the arena. The lowest percentage of masking took place in the upper seating. Researchers also determined that at 81%, female fans were more likely to wear masks than their male counterparts, at 70%.

Experts say the study shows the difficulty of enforcing mask mandates at large-scale events. The full summary of the study is available to read on JAMA.

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