Public surveillance cameras can gather data on masking levels, developed at Penn State


CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — Academics at Penn State University are capitalizing on public surveillance cameras and using them to measure COVID-19 masking levels.

This new research started after an international event, called Sturgis, had the potential to be a super-spreader for COVID-19 in 2020. It caught the attention of researchers at Penn State, and by tapping into the public live stream, they could see how many people were wearing masks.

“We thought that this was a great opportunity to look at how well the visitors there were complying with CDC recommendations and also statewide regulations regarding masks in public places,” said Jacob Oury, a senior graduate researcher at Penn State University.

Now, they’re looking to bring that method to a local level.

“We’re going to be seeing the same problem at Penn State as we saw at Sturgis, right, without masks and vaccinations,” said Frank Ritter, professor of information sciences and technology at Penn State University.

He plans to pitch it to the university and said they could easily use the information on their dashboards to help predict potential spread. The results are quick.

“Let’s say if we had some event on campus that we were concerned about,” said Oury. “The people that are stakeholders there, that are making these decisions and need that information, with a bit of training for undergrads, they could get these results back, really by, within the next day or two.”

The data would come from public surveillance.

“You are allowed to be photographed in public,” said Ritter. “Penn State wants to be a leader and here’s a chance where it can at least follow, rather than be dragged along through the mud.”

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