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USC Study: Only Half Of Americans Wear Masks While In Close Contact With People Outside Their Households

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Wearing a mask is considered to be the easiest and most effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19, but a large number of adults still don't wear them consistently, even in higher-risk situations.

The USC Dornsife Center "Understanding Coronavirus in America" study found that only about half of Americans mostly or always wear a mask when they are in close contact with people who are not part of their household.

"These findings indicate a need to redouble efforts to convey consistent messages about the overall importance of wearing masks, but more than that – where and when to wear them," Arie Kapteyn, director of the USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research said in a statement. "Too many seem to lack a clear understanding of the risks posed by friends and family outside their immediate households."

Daily Life In Los Angeles Amid Coronavirus Outbreak
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 19: People wearing protective face masks take a selfie at the Griffith Observatory with downtown Los Angels in the background during the coronavirus pandemic on May 19, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. COVID-19 has spread to most countries around the world, claiming over 324,000 lives and infecting over 4.9 million people. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)

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Closer to home, 67% of Angelenos are much more likely to wear masks while in close contact with other people, compared to the national average of 52%.

"I've seen a lot of people not wearing masks," said one L.A. resident Thursday. "Or they give me a dirty look for wearing a mask."

The study also found 63% of Angelenos are more likely to wear a mask while exercising outside, compared to 22% nationally, and less likely to come into close contact with people outside their household by 50%, compared to the national average of 63%.

"Despite L.A.'s soaring infection rates, it is clear from our data that Angelenos are more willing to wear a mask than people in other parts of the country on average," Sociologist Kyla Thomas said in a statement. "Still, rates of mask-wearing are far from where they need to be in L.A. to slow the spread of the virus, especially among those who are young, white or socially active."

Researchers say 83% of American adults consider wearing a mask to be the most effective way to stay safe from COVID-19. The study analyzed data collected between March 2020 and January 2021.

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