On March 18, the U.S. Census Bureau announced it would be suspending 2020 Census field operations for two weeks, until April 1, to protect the health and safety of the American public, Census Bureau employees, and those going through the hiring process for temporary census taker positions.

Three days earlier, the Census Bureau had announced other operational updates related to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Counting students
One change involves the counting of college students who may now be home due to school closures. College students living in on-campus housing are counted through their university as part of the Group Quarters Operation, which counts all students living in university-owned housing.

In general, students in colleges and universities temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic will still be counted as part of this process. Even if they are home on census day, April 1, they should be counted according to the residence criteria, which states they should be counted where they live and sleep most of the time. Schools are being asked to contact their students and remind them to respond.

Group quarters
The Census Bureau is encouraging group quarters administrators who may be in charge of operations such as nursing homes, prisons and other institutional living facilities to find a way to count their residents that minimizes in-person contact.

Service providers at emergency and transitional shelters, soup kitchens and regularly scheduled mobile food vans are being asked by the Census Bureau to count the populations they serve, if they remain open. This is to be done through an interview with each person served a meal or staying at the facility.

Follow-up
The Census Bureau will be delaying follow-up operations with households that haven’t responded to census mailings.

Census takers begin following up around some colleges and universities first, so they can count households in areas with off-campus housing before the end of the spring semester. This follow-up operation will be delayed from April 9 to April 23.

The planned completion date for census data collection is July 31, but the date may need to be adjusted as the COVID emergency evolves in order to achieve a complete and accurate count.

Census statistics are used to determine the number of seats each state holds in the U.S. House of Representatives and informs how billions of dollars in federal funds will be allocated by state, local and federal lawmakers annually for the next 10 years.

As of March 21, 16.7% of households have responded to the 2020 Census.

The Census Bureau has a self-response rate map for the 2020 census at https://2020census.gov/en/response-rates.html.

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