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Based on continuing assessments of guidance from federal, state and local health authorities, the U.S. Census Bureau is suspending 2020 Census field operations for two additional weeks to April 15, 2020. The Census Bureau is taking this step to help protect the health and safety of the American public, Census Bureau employees, and everyone who will go through the hiring process for temporary census taker positions.

The Census Bureau continues to evaluate all 2020 Census field operations, and will communicate any further updates as soon as possible.

The 2020 Census is open for self-response online at 2020Census.gov, over the phone by calling the number provided in your invitation, and by paper through the mail.

Census spokesman Donald Bendz said there are currently census employees in 14 remote Alaska communities. The teams will finish surveying those but will not travel to any other villages during the suspension.

It takes two to five days for employees to survey each community.

“We are continuing enumeration in the areas where we already had teams working and where the villages are comfortable and have given us permission to finish up our work,” he said.

The bureau’s remote Alaska operation has already surveyed 140 communities and has 70 to go, Bendz said.

The census is a survey of America’s population, taken once every 10 years, and collects data about age, race, household size and more. The survey’s population totals impact how federal funding is distributed and how many seats each state gets in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Bendz said the census is especially important during the current pandemic because population helps determine how federal relief aid will be issued.

“We are living through what census data is really at the core of,” he said.

The census began in January in Toksook Bay, a Western Alaska village on the Bering Sea. In rural Alaska, surveyors begin by going door-to-door in sparsely populated villages. Throughout the Lower 48 and in Alaska’s larger cities, households were invited by mail this month to respond online, over the phone or on paper.

Mail responses have been sent to those with physical addresses. Those with post office boxes will not receive paper questionaires.

Bendz said the bureau is planning to complete the in-person visits to homes in May, although the situation will be assessed again as that date approaches.

He urged people to complete the census in advance so the number of household visits can be reduced.

“One of the things we want people to do while they’re quarantined and ‘Netflixing’ or spending time with their family is to fill out the census, because the more responses we get, the less we will have to have enumerators going from door to door," he said.

Nationwide, more than 11 million households had responded to the census as of last week, according to a statement from the bureau.

Preserving the health and safety of the public and census employees is the bureau’s top priority, Bendz said.

Michael Paschall is the editor and publisher of Delta Wind and can be reached at editor@deltawindonline.com.