U.S. Census responds to concerns about coronavirus

Posted at 12:16 PM, Mar 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-17 14:16:10-04

The U.S. Census Bureau released the following message on Monday in response to concerns about Census operations amidst the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak across the nation.

In the mix of all the self-distancing, quarantines, and new COVID-19 cases, the U.S. Census Bureau has just begun its field operations here in Montana. So, accordingly, we are adjusting those and outreach efforts of one of the federal government's most massive undertakings: the Constitutional requirement to count everyone living in the United States once, only once, and in the right place.

For at least the next couple weeks, the partnership team that has been working with Montana's tribal nations, counties, cities, and towns will have little to no public footprint across the state. Most census-related events over the next few weeks have been canceled or likely soon will be. We will endeavor to conduct all outreach virtually -- either by phone or videoconference to ensure the work we have done the last two plus years to build those partnerships remains solid while balancing the need to limit exposure to the public and census employees. We anticipate, for now, those public events may start again in mid-April but that is dependent on the determination of federal and state public health officials in the run-up to that time.

Currently, we are in a field operation called "update leave" (visit a home on the non-Internet response list, update that the address is accurate, leave a package with the paper census questionnaire and invitation). Normally, employees would knock and make sure the person received the package. For the immediate future, employees will not do that and will simply leave a bag containing the items at the home. Any personal contact between the public and census employees will be handled safely.

The actual "door knocking" (non-response follow up or NRFU) phase is set to begin next month and ramp up into May 2020 through the end of field operations over the summer. Those plans remain intact but can change depending on how self-response goes the next several weeks along with how public health is affected during that same time.

Beyond the online component, ( ), people can call a toll free number (1-844-330-2020), available in 13 languages and TDD, to complete the census over the phone or mail back their paper questionnaire once they receive it in the next few weeks. Of note, already in the first several days of the online component there have been over five million people who finished their census online.

During the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau will never ask you for:

  • Your Social Security number.
  • Money or donations.
  • Anything on behalf of a political party.
  • Your bank or credit card account numbers.

If someone claiming to be from the Census Bureau contacts you via email or phone and asks you for one of these things, it's a scam, and you should not cooperate. For more information, visit Avoiding Fraud and Scams .