The Big Little Lies star wants to remind people to follow "essential" COVID precautions like mask-wearing, social distancing and getting tested
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Laura Dern
Laura Dern
| Credit: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty

Laura Dern has witnessed the devastating effects of COVID-19 firsthand.

After losing a friend to the virus and seeing others people become severely sick, the Oscar-winning actress takes COVID-19 “very seriously.”

“I've had friends who are on ventilators, who pulled through. I've known people of all ages who've been very sick. And we had one beautiful friend and artist who, who lost his life to it,” Dern, 53, tells PEOPLE. “So we certainly take it very seriously as, I pray at this point, everyone globally does.”

Dern is urging people to follow “essential” health precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, from mask-wearing to social distancing to regular testing.

“These are all essential,” she says, “but a mask really matters. It has really saved lives.”

Those precautions have helped Dern ease her anxiety about staying healthy, particularly as she continues to care for her mother, actress Diane Ladd, who is now 85 and particularly high-risk due to a lung condition. Dern and her two kids, daughter Jaya Harper, 16, and son Ellery Harper, 19, regularly get tested for COVID-19 so they can visit Ladd and Dern’s father Bruce, who both live nearby her home in Los Angeles.

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“Testing has been vital, so that I can check on them and bring them food and give them community,” she says. “People still need community. I feel blessed that I have people that need me to take care of them. I think that serves us and makes us stronger somehow, that we need to be strong for others.”

Dern has been using LetsGetChecked, an FDA-approved, at-home COVID-19 testing kit that she learned about when Jurassic World: Dominion resumed filming this summer and she needed to be tested regularly. Now a spokesperson for the brand, Dern believes that this and the other at-home medical options that have cropped up since the start of the virus, like telemedicine visits, will stick around after the pandemic.

Covid home testing kit
LetsGetChecked's at-home COVID-19 kit
| Credit: LetsGetChecked

“It makes me feel calmer to know I have more power than I realized when it comes to my own health and wellbeing,” she says.