NEWS19 March 2020

US census field operations paused over coronavirus concerns

Covid-19 Healthcare News North America Public Sector Trends

US – The US Census Bureau has suspended its census field operations for two weeks because of the Covid-19 outbreak.

US census questionnaire

The decennial US census began in Alaska in late January, and fully commenced operations in the rest of the country last week.

Field operations will be paused until 1st April, which is the official census date, to “help protect the health and safety of the American public” as well as Census Bureau employees and those applying for temporary jobs as census takers, the agency said in a statement.

This is the first primarily digital census, but hundreds of thousands of temporary workers are needed to collect responses from the households that have not completed the questionnaires online, on the phone or by mail. Door-to-door efforts are scheduled to begin in late May.

The Bureau has “strongly encouraged” the public to respond to the census online as soon as they receive their invitation.

It said: “As we continue to monitor the evolving Covid-19 outbreak, we will adjust census taker and survey operations as necessary in order to follow the guidance of federal, state and local health authorities.”

The agency also said its staff will begin using phone calls rather than face-to-face visits for all of its other household and economic surveys.

Arturo Vargas, chief executive of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, said: “NALEO Educational Fund supports the Census Bureau’s decision to suspend field operations for two weeks so that it can comply with public health directives. We know the Bureau remains dedicated to conducting a full and accurate count of all residents, and we continue to support its efforts to fulfill that mission.”

The Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) has partnered with the Census Bureau to raise awareness and encourage participation in the census. Scott McDonald, chief executive and president, said: “The accuracy and reliability of census data is dependent on civic participation. Low participation would have detrimental effects on our industry for the next ten years, as insights sourced from this data would be skewed and unreliable. We urge both our members and the overall industry to support and preserve this institution.”