Amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, U.S. Census Bureau officials are making adjustments to field operations and training for the decennial count.
As local residents adjust their daily lives to self-quarantine, social distancing and other precautions, the bureau is also reminding them to take a few minutes to complete the census form. Census data shows that North County Coastal cities are so far outpacing the state total in self-response rate, which measures how many people have completed the census online, by mail or by phone.
“Now that people are staying home, they have an opportunity to go online and take the census,” said David Bennett, a Census Bureau spokesman in San Diego, adding that they can also do so by phone or mail.
Census field operations were suspended until April 1, the Census Bureau announced last week. Census takers are still scheduled to begin visiting households that haven’t responded in late May. More adjustments to the census-taking timeline could be made, depending on how the coronavirus pandemic evolves.
“It’s a fluid situation,” Bennett said. “We’ll continue to adjust as needed.”
The original July 31 cutoff for self-responding has been extended to Aug. 14, and the December deadline to deliver the counts to Congress and the president are still in place. The information is used for allocating congressional seats and appropriating more than $600 billion in federal funds.
The Census Bureau will also continue processing job applications and hiring workers for field operations once they resume. In some cases, there will be delays in training workers, according to an announcement on the bureau’s website. Census field offices are operating with reduced staff to comply with social distancing measures.
“We’re still continuing to hire, we still have positions available for hundreds more workers,” Bennett said. “We’re looking toward the future and making sure we have everything necessary for getting a proper census.”
North County coastal cities are off to a relatively fast start. In Del Mar, the rate for the 2020 census was 24.4% as of Monday, compared to a 20.5% self-response rate statewide.
“Del Mar is very well positioned to have a full and accurate count,” said Roberto Garcia, a representative from the Census Bureau’s San Diego office.
One of his colleagues addressed the Del Mar City Council earlier this month about urging local residents to participate. Census officials have also been in contact with the city of Solana Beach, where the self-response rate was 20.9% as of Monday.
“Their city government was definitely on board to do a lot of things,” Garcia said, noting an effort by the library to promote the census.
The self-response rate in Encinitas as of Monday was 22.2%. Garcia said the eastern portion of the city is the hardest to count. The Census Bureau’s list of hard-to-count populations include renters, people who live in rural areas and individuals experiencing homelessness.
Due to coronavirus, many college students have returned home from other cities and states. If they would have been living in a dorm room or other residence near their schools on April 1, they are supposed to be counted for that location.
“We’re looking at all of our tools, we’re looking at our data,” Garcia said. “This is a data-driven operation.”
Invitations to complete the census online have been mailed out nationwide. For more information, visit 2020census.gov.