UH students collect mask-wearing data

  • Courtesy of Reyson Agcaoili

    University of Hawai‘i at Manoa student Reyson Agcaoili conducts a survey on the habits of people wearing masks outside of the ABC Store Saturday morning in Kapa‘a.

KAPA‘A — University of Hawai‘i at Manoa nursing student Reyson Agcaoili used the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to learn more about his future occupation.

Agcaoili, a 21-year-old Lihu‘e resident and a member of Kauai Medical Reserve Corps, volunteered for the state Department of Health, collecting observational data on residents wearing masks and some who don’t wear masks properly.

The Kaua‘i Medical Reserve Corps is a group of volunteer organizations participating in a program developed by Advanced Population Health Nursing Program Director and Assistant Professor at the UH Manoa Department of Nursing, Dr. Gary Glauberman, in collaboration with the state DOH.

The pilot run of the program kicked off with 27 volunteers from UH and the local Medical Reserve Corps.

For the past two Saturday mornings, Agcaoili walked in local Kaua‘i shopping areas and observed those wearing masks.

Using a smartphone app developed specifically for the project, he recorded their observations in real-time so data could be collected and sent to the state DOH, which is tracking patterns of face-mask-wearing behaviors.

While observing, a crucial detail Agcaoili paid attention to was how people wore their masks.

One of the criteria to wear a face mask correctly is for a mask to cover the nose and chin.

For Agcaoili, observing people during his time volunteering for the state DOH was a learning experience.

“You don’t generally interact with anyone while you are observing,” Agcaoili said. “For me, it was interesting to see the different behaviors regarding mask-wearing. I observed whether people wore masks correctly, incorrectly or not at all.”

A learning experience

Agcaoili, who has aspirations of working in the health field, said learning how the state DOH operates is a valuable experience.

“Being able to contribute to the state’s COVID-19 response effort as a Kaua’i MRC volunteer and UH Manoa nursing student within my community is extremely important and valuable,” Agcaoili said.

“It provides me with pride and peace of mind that our Kaua’i ‘ohana is taking COVID-19 very seriously by adhering to face-mask-wearing.”

Prevention is key

The volunteers collect data for two hours, or until 100 people were counted, whichever came first.

Every volunteer participating in the pilot project is required to complete a live or recorded virtual training from Glauberman.

“The training session provides volunteers with information about the purpose of the project, instructions on how to conduct and record observations, and safety precautions for volunteers,” Glauberman said.

“It also provides a walkthrough of the mobile phone app developed at UH to record observations.”

State DOH Kaua‘i District Health Officer Dr. Janet Berreman said mask-wearing is one of the most-effective means of prevention of community spread of the novel coronavirus.

“At a population or community level, mask-wearing, when practiced consistently, reduces cases, hospitalizations and deaths,“ Berreman said.

“It is also easily observed. With the help of UH students and MRC volunteers, we will have more information to help us depict how preventative measures are impacting our community health outcomes.”


Jason Blasco, reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or jblasco@thegardenisland.com.


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