University students’ adherence to mask wear and handling protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic

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  • Background/Aim In Alberta, mask wear in public continues to be mandatory to limit the spread of COVID-19. Public health guidelines on correct wear and handling of masks is established to ensure effectivity. However, with COVID-19 incidence increasing in adults in their 20s and 30s, questions are raised on whether young adults follow these mitigation strategies. The aim was to investigate university students’ adherence to mask wear and handling protocols.
    Methods University of Alberta students (N=454) completed an online survey about mask handling. It evaluated socio-demographic, psychological factors and face mask perception (FMP) related to proper mask wear, avoidance of touching and hand hygiene. A 3-step hierarchical linear regression was used, with socio-demographics measured at step 1, psychological factors at step 2, and FMP at step 3.
    Results For mask wear, positive FMP explained 21% of variance. Positive FMP of efficacy (p<.001) and inconvenience (p<.001) associated with better mask wear. Positive FMP also explained 13% of variance in mask touch. For mask hand hygiene, 20% of variance was affected by psychological factors. Fear of COVID-19 (p<.001), not willing to take risks (p<.05) and altruism (p<.001) associated with better hand hygiene. Fear of COVID-19 had minimal impact on correct mask wearing protocols but influenced both mask touch and hand hygiene.
    Conclusions Many mask protocols are hidden practices. Factors associated with fear of COVID-19 or altruism are likely to predict private practices of mask handling, but less so the public displays of mask wearing. These findings can aid in finding strategies that may influence university students’ behaviours to improve mask wear and handling protocols.

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    Article (Draft / Submitted)
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    Public Domain Mark 1.0