By now, nearly everyone in the world is well aware that face masks are one of the most beneficial tools in the global war against COVID-19. (Whether or not everyone in the world follows, or believes, that science is a different story.) Not only are protective face coverings recommended by the CDC and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, but masks are mandatory in many places, and perhaps the easiest way to prevent the spread of the deadly virus. However, when you wear your face mask can make all the difference. According to a new study courtesy of the CDC, if you really want to ensure protection from the virus, you should also be wearing them in the comfort of your own home—if someone in your home gets sick.

The study, published Friday on the CDC’s website, found that “Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 occurs within households” and is quite common—mostly due to the fact that people spread the virus to family members before they are symptomatic. The one thing you can do to keep yourself protected from COVID is by wearing a mask around loved ones if they contract the virus. It doesn’t guarantee 100% protection but it is “one of the most powerful weapons we have.” (Related: Sure Signs You’ve Already Had Coronavirus.)

“Household transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is common and occurs early after illness onset,” the CDC wrote. “Persons should self-isolate immediately at the onset of COVID-like symptoms, at the time of testing as a result of a high risk exposure, or at time of a positive test result, whichever comes first.”

“Concurrently, all household members, including the index patient, should start wearing a mask in the home, particularly in shared spaces where appropriate distancing is not possible,” they continued. “Close household contacts of the index patient should also self-quarantine, to the extent possible, particularly staying away from those at higher risk of getting severe COVID-19.”

“We are not defenseless against COVID-19,” CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield said earlier this year. “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus – particularly when used universally within a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.”

One example of the effectiveness of face masks was demonstrated by a CDC report published over the summer about two hairdressers who were infected with COVID-19. Neither spread the virus to their clients, likely due to the fact that both of them wore masks. Dr. Fauci has even gone so far as to say he supports a nationwide mask mandate. “Whenever we looked around at what other countries have done, and even in individual situations in our own country, there is no doubt that masking—if you put masking with keeping distances and avoiding congregates and crowds and try to do the thing outdoors more than indoors, it makes a difference. It really, really does.” So if someone in your home gets ill, wear your mask and do as the CDC instructs above, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.

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