What Census Told Field Workers About Avoiding COVID-19 Before Pausing Operations

BOSTON - FEBRUARY 22: Chris Worrell, right, jokes with Teresa Jefferson as he applies to work the 2020 Census at the John Tierney Learning Center in South Boston on Feb. 22, 2020. Jefferson participated in the 2010 C... BOSTON - FEBRUARY 22: Chris Worrell, right, jokes with Teresa Jefferson as he applies to work the 2020 Census at the John Tierney Learning Center in South Boston on Feb. 22, 2020. Jefferson participated in the 2010 Census and says her neighbors still know her as the "census lady." (Photo by Blake Nissen for The Boston Globe via Getty Images) MORE LESS

The coronavirus outbreak couldn’t have come at worst time for the 2020 census, and, to wit, the Census Bureau announced Wednesday that it was pausing field operations through April 1 to protect its workers and the public in the pandemic.

Americans can still respond to the survey online, over the phone or by mail. But the Bureau relies on in-person interactions to encourage participation, follow up with households that haven’t responded on their own and conduct other operations aimed at obtaining information for the survey.

Much of that activity isn’t in full swing yet, and the Bureau said on Wednesday that it “will continue to evaluate all 2020 Census operations” throughout the current suspension.

This guidance that the Bureau provided fieldworkers on avoiding COVID-19 (before their operations were put on pause) helps illuminate why this outbreak is creating such a challenge for the decennial census.

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