PHILADELPHIA–A new study by academic and private sector researchers on outdoor mask use in Philadelphia found that 72% of persons observed on commercial streets, 56% of those observed in parks, and 36% of persons observed on playgrounds were wearing masks when observed. Of those wearing masks, 88% were wearing them properly over the nose and mouth.
Fifty-one percent of females were observed wearing a mask properly, while only 37% of males did. Sixty percent of those determined as seniors wore masks properly, while just 21% of teens were observed wearing masks properly. Philadelphians identified as Asian had the highest proper mask use level at 63%, with whites at 47%, Black and Latinx were both counted at 35%.
Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said, “Mask use is one of the most important ways that we can keep each other safe. This study showed that, while most Philadelphians are wearing masks, too many are not wearing them properly or not wearing them at all outdoors. Remember: your mask protects me, my mask protects you.”
This study differed from the Health Department’s ongoing surveillance of mask use in several important ways: it was conducted in all ten Councilmanic districts and focused on outdoor spaces. The City’s surveillance is focused primarily on people exiting retail stores, so it is closer to measuring mask use indoors, which is likely to be more important for preventing the spread of COVID-19. The City’s data collection also did not look at differences in mask-wearing by gender, race, or age.
The Philadelphia Study of Mask Adherence and Distancing (SOMAD) study was conducted over the last three weeks of August 2020, and it only counted people outdoors. The researchers observed more than 4,600 people in 30 outdoor public spaces throughout Philadelphia, including commercial intersections, neighborhood parks, and playgrounds and in all 10 Councilmanic districts. Further data collection will be conducted in September and October 2020. A final report of masking trends in Philadelphia will be released in November 2020.
The research presented in this press release is funded in part by NHLBI # R01HL145145. Contributors to the study design and data collection and analyses include Meghan Talarowski and Dr. Olaitan Awomolo of Studio Ludo, Dr. Deborah Cohen of Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation, Dr. Thom McKenzie, Professor Emeritus of SDSU, Dr. Bing Han and Stephanie Williamson of RAND Corporation. Field staff include Emily Galfond, Krithika Mohan, and Tiffany Durkson.