Are Face Masks Needed at Sweet Sixteen Games?
As sixteen college basketball teams and fans prepare for playoff games this weekend, many ask if face masks are needed to be protected from the respiratory virus that causes COVID-19.
While there is much debate and research on the benefits of wearing face masks, a new surveillance system helps people visualize their actual risks.
Thanks to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a data-driven way to make informed infection-risk determinations is now open to the public.
Based on the actual level of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus circulating in each of the NCAA Women's and Men's basketball Sweet Sixteen host cities, everyone can digitally see local trends as of March 21, 2023.
These insights are realized because people infected with SARS-CoV-2 shed the virus in their feces, even if they don't have symptoms.
The virus can then be detected in wastewater, enabling local surveillance.
This means real-time data provides early warnings of COVID-19 risk in local communities.
When selecting a city or state from the CDC's easy-to-use Data Tracker, a color-coded chart displays how virus levels have changed (increased and decreased) at wastewater sites over the last 15 days.
- Blue categories (Large decrease (-100%); Decrease (-99% to -10%)): Virus levels decreased at these sites in the last 15 days.
- Yellow category (Stable (-9% to 9%)): Virus levels stayed the same at these sites in the last 15 days.
- Orange and Red categories (Increase (10% to 99%); Large increase (100% or more)): Virus levels increased at these sites in the last 15 days.
For example, Houston, Texas, the Final Four host city, is currently indicating a very low level of SARS-CoV-2 virus in its wastewater system.
While this innovative system brings new information about the benefits of using face masks at significant public events, it's not personalized.
When attending these exciting basketball games, you may never know if the person sitting in front, behind, or beside you is spreading the virus when cheering on their team.
Because you may not know where they came from.
Therefore, the CDC encourages everyone to be protected from severe COVID-19 by being up-to-date with boosters doses.
Various COVID-19 vaccines remain available at most health clinics and community pharmacies in the U.S.