By CBSLA Staff

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.

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“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.”

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. (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%.

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“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.”

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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.