If you step on West Virginia University's campus, a mask is required.By Nicole Ford

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (KDKA) – As universities started back this fall, coronavirus case numbers were sky-high in 18- to 29-year-olds.

At West Virginia University, student researchers partnered with the CDC to see if masks played a role in those numbers.

“We have eight students, so four groups that pair up together and visit these locations twice a week for about an hour to make about 40 observations. Our goal each week is to make about 400 observations,” said Keith Zullig, a WVU professor.

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Those locations are considered high-traffic areas and the student researchers are looking for mask or no mask. Then the next question, is the mask being worn the correct way? The study started at the beginning of the semester and the first few weeks of data are rolling in.

“We’ve done just over 1,000 observations so far and about 84 percent of people are wearing masks and 85 to 86 percent of those wearing them correctly,” Zullig said.

Currently, 30 percent of WVU classes are using face-to-face instruction. But if you step on campus, a mask is required.

Zullig told KDKA that he was not surprised by the data because of the education happening on campus.

“What we don’t know is when students are not on campus. That’s what we can’t control and where you hear about these things where students are gathering in ways and doing things,” Zullig said.

He said it’s unlikely that the university will ever have 100 percent of students correctly wearing masks, but his hope is to eventually see it rise to over 90 percent.

“Our ultimate goal is to strengthen mitigation strategies and improve knowledge on proper mask-wearing,” Zullig said.

The study is seven weeks so the last observation period will take place right before Thanksgiving.