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Vest JR, Blackburn J, Cash-Goldwasser S, Bergquist EP, Embi PJ. Mask-Wearing Behavior at the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. JAMA. Published online August 16, 2021. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.14057
Large sporting events potentially increase the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and other communicable diseases due to prolonged close contact and socializing with nonhousehold members.1 Although rigorous evidence is lacking, requiring face masks, restricting eating/drinking, reducing spectator capacity, encouraging physical distancing, and reserving space between groups of ticketed seats are strategies that attempt to reduce transmission risk. However, even when face masks are required, spectators’ mask-wearing behavior may be inconsistent. To support public health efforts in reducing disease spread and venues’ preparations for future events during COVID-19 or other epidemics, this study quantified spectators’ mask wearing during a high-profile national sporting event.
We conducted repeated cross-sectional aggregated counts of public face mask wearing during the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Division I men’s basketball tournament, March Madness, in Indianapolis, Indiana, from March 30 to April 5, 2021. Spectators’ mask-wearing behavior was observed at 5 games in a large indoor stadium limited to 22% capacity. The venue, county, and state had mask requirements. Signage and speaker announcements encouraged mask wearing, physical distancing measures, and empty seating between groups. Ushers enforced compliance.