1 1 (May 26, 2020)

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Updated May 26, 2020


2020 Census Fieldwork Delayed by COVID-19


In a March 18, 2020, press release (CB20-RTQ.08), U.S.
Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham announced that
the bureau was suspending all 2020 decennial census field
operations until April 1. This action, a response to the novel
coronavirus disease first observed in 2019 (COVID-19) and
designated a pandemic by the World Health Organization
on March 11, 2020, came at a critical time for the census.
Although April 1 was the official Census Day, early data
collection began in remote Toksook Bay, Alaska, on
January 21. Other tightly timed field operations were
underway or imminent, including the bureau's personal
outreach to hard-to-count areas and groups. Dr. Dillingham
stated on March 18 that if additional adjustments became
necessary, the bureau would make them known promptly.

A subsequent press release, dated March 28, 2020 (CB20-
RTQ. 14), gave notice that field operations would not
resume until April 15.

An April 13, 2020, press release (CB20-RTQ. 16) and new
operations schedule indicated the bureau's need to delay
release of the 2020 state census counts for apportioning
seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and the data for
within-state redistricting past the respective December 31,
2020, and March 31, 2021, legal deadlines for these
products (see Title 13, US. Code, Section 141 (b) and (c)).

A May 4, 2020, press release (CB20-CN.44) and May 7
revised schedule announced a phased restart of certain
2020 census field operations, to begin immediately in
selected areas in coordination with federal, state, and local
health officials. The bureau noted that field and Area
Census Office (ACO) staff will receive training in safety
measures to avoid contracting or transmitting COVID-19.
Staff also are to receive personal protective equipment
before operations restart. A list of the first ACOs chosen to
reopen accompanied the release. The list, the bureau stated,
is being updated weekly as more offices are added.

This In Focus notes the various major components of the
bureau's 2020 census fieldwork; their original and latest
schedules, as of May 7, 2020, with some subsequent
updates; and relevant legislation.


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Census Bureau managers and staff at 2020 census field
offices are to conduct, according to the bureau,
administrative, training, deployment, and support
activities for the peak data collection phase of the


census. Part of the preparations involve selecting and
hiring field staff. The operations were to have begun on
March 1, 2020, but were postponed until May 4 or later,
depending on office location. The bureau, as noted on its
2020 census recruitment site (2020census.gov/jobs),
continues to accept applications for temporary part-time
census positions. Applicants who have been offered jobs
are still selected for these positions and can continue
checking the site for further information about when they
will be fingerprinted and trained.


Invitations to answer the census were mailed to about 95%
of U.S. households from March 12 to March 20, 2020. By
May 17, the Census Bureau reported, 59.6% of households
had answered; 48.1% had responded online. The bureau,
before the pandemic, had strongly encouraged online
responses as the fastest, easiest, most accurate way to
complete the census, and lately is promoting the intemet for
these advantages, plus no associated risk of contracting
COVID-19. In addition, the bureau is accepting completed
paper questionnaires by mail and answers by telephone.
This initial phase of the census, in which households are
asked to respond soon after receiving their invitations, was
to continue from March 12 to July 31. The adjusted
schedule extends the initial phase until October 31.


The operation that began in Toksook Bay on January 21,
2020, was to end on April 30. The tentative end date is now
June 19, but, the bureau advised, some areas with year-
round populations will be enumerated when enumeration
is safe to do.


During Update Enumerate, enumerators are to update the
addresses of, and interview in person, about 2,000
households in remote areas of northern Maine and southeast
Alaska. The operation began on March 16, 2020, and was
to end on April 30. It has been suspended until June 14 and
is to continue until July 29. The bureau, to protect both
census takers and respondents from COVID-19, has
directed that enumerators conduct interviews outside
homes, at least six feet away from respondents.


Another operation, Update Leave, covers not quite 5% of
households, located where residents are unlikely to receive
mail at their homes. Examples include across Puerto Rico
and in other areas that have recently experienced natural
disasters. Enumerators update the addresses of these
households for the bureau's master address file and drop off
paper census forms, invitations, and instructions for those


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