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King County researchers want to know who is wearing a mask

Washington DOH, Public Health – Seattle & King County and UW are teaming up on the study to figure out how best to get more people to mask up.

SEATTLE — Who is actually wearing their masks? To health experts, that's an important question. 

That is why the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and Public Health – Seattle & King County are partnering with the University of Washington to find the answer. 

"What we're really interested is just trying to kind of learn what mask usage is like in King County, and how that might be changing over time," said Marissa Baker, assistant professor in UW's Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences. 

Baker is one of the team members on the projects alongside UW's Dr. Judy Wasserheit, Dr. Marty Cohen and Dr. Brandon Guthrie. 

Though a vaccine is on its way, researchers say the reality is the majority of us won't get it until months from now. Even after we receive it, masks may be a part of our lives well into 2021, possibly past the summer. 

"The vaccine is a nice beacon of hope, but mask wearing will still be very important," Baker said. 

Starting this week, trained student volunteers will be taking observations around the county, including grocery stores and shopping districts, taking notes of who is masking up and who is not. 

No names or identifying information is shared and no pictures are taken.

The findings will be used by DOH and Public Health – Seattle & King County to tailor messaging campaigns later on to try and get more people on board with mask wearing. 

"So our public health practitioner partners at the state and the county can really design and implement interventions that will help to improve mask use wearing," Baker said. 

As we prepare for more months of the pandemic, health experts are trying to find the best ways to fight mask fatigue and keep the message strong.

"Pandemic fatigue is a real (thing) and unfortunately, it happens to be coinciding with, you know, some of the coldest and darkest and wettest months," Baker said. 

The study will last until the new year.

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