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Census in the Time of COVID

August 14, 2020
Written by: Dr. Steven Dillingham, Director

This began as a busy year for all of us at the U.S. Census Bureau. In January, we officially launched the 2020 Census in Toksook Bay, Alaska and were excited to start the nationwide count in March. Then, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we quickly adapted our plans and adjusted the 2020 Census schedule

As we have emphasized since the pandemic arrived, the safety of our staff and the public is our top priority. We are thankful to our nation’s health professionals, including those at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and all the hard work they are doing to promote health and safety during this time of uncertainty. In carrying out our mission and wide range of responsibilities – from the 2020 Census to our many national surveys – we must protect the health and safety of those we serve and employ.

The Census Bureau remains committed to conducting a complete and accurate 2020 Census, which includes following up with nonresponding households in person. Our staff is trained to follow CDC guidelines and required to wear masks and practice social distancing in conducting its work. Our census takers are hitting the streets to count people in homes that have not yet returned a questionnaire. They are wearing face coverings, maintaining a social distance of six feet or more, and utilizing proper hygiene practices while also conducting interviews outside as much as possible. We ask that household members contacted by census staff maintain social distancing during interviews and follow CDC recommendations. Just as we promote safety, patience and kindness toward household respondents, we hope they reciprocate by cooperating with our dedicated census takers whose work is so vital to a complete and accurate count.

As our staff visit neighborhoods across the country, the Census Bureau has acquired more than 41 million pieces of Personal Protective Equipment for use by our office and field staff. This includes 2.4 million masks, 14.4 million individual gloves, 21.4 million disinfectant wipes, 3.6 million bottles of hand sanitizer for field staff use, and 48,000 gallons of hand sanitizer for use in census facilities.

As a reminder, you can still respond online, by phone or by mail if you don’t want a census taker to come calling. These are safe, easy, efficient options and save taxpayer dollars.

We are grateful to the CDC for supporting the mission of the Census Bureau and the professional work of our staff. We will continue to work with the CDC and health care professionals to keep our census takers, other field staff, and household respondents safe and healthy.

With your trust, support and safe practices, I am confident we will accomplish our mission and deliver a complete and accurate count of the nation’s residents in 2020!

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