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Census Bureau puts hold on field operations over coronavirus

The U.S. Census Bureau on Wednesday suspended field operations for two weeks, citing the health and safety of its workers and the U.S. public from the novel coronavirus.

The Census Bureau made the announcement a week after the start of the 2020 census count, and bureau officials said they were continuing to monitor all operations related to the 2020 census in the wake of the virus spread. As of Wednesday, 11 million households had answered the census questions.

“The public is strongly encouraged to respond to the 2020 Census online using a desktop computer, laptop, smartphone, or tablet, and can also respond by phone or mail,” the Census Bureau said in a statement.

Most census workers won’t head into the field until May, when they’ll knock on the doors of homes that haven’t turned in their questionnaires.

But some workers are in the field now, primarily working on counts for college students, nursing homes, prisons and other institutions, as well as places with no fixed addresses.

This is the first decennial census that has encouraged most people to answer the questionnaire online, although respondents can also answer by telephone or mailing back a form. The Census Bureau is hoping a strong self-response rate will decrease the need for census takers to knock on doors for face-to-face interviews this summer.

The 2020 census will help determine how many congressional seats each state gets and the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal spending.

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