Census Day—the date used to reference where a person lives for the once-a-decade count—arrived Wednesday with a nation almost paralyzed by the spread of the coronavirus. But census officials vowed the job would be completed by its year-end deadline. The virus' spread has forced the US Census Bureau to suspend field operations for a month, from mid-March to mid-April, when the hiring process would normally be ramping up for up to 500,000 temporary census takers. The bureau also has delayed the start of counts for the homeless and people living in group quarters like college dorms and nursing homes, and has pushed back the deadline for wrapping up the head count from the end of July to mid-August, the AP reports.
The Census Bureau is required to send the president the counts that will be used to carve up congressional districts—a process known as apportionment—and draw state legislative districts by Dec. 31. Some groups are suggesting that the deadline be pushed back, though it's currently mandated by federal law. "We are laser-focused on the statute's Dec. 31 deadline for apportionment counts and population counts," but will "assess all of our operations" to see if changes need to be made, says Census Bureau spokesman Michael Cook. The head count started in late January in rural, native villages in Alaska, but the rest of the country wasn't able to start answering the questionnaire until the second week of March when the Census Bureau's self-response website went live. (Households will be asked who "Person 1" is.)