Coronavirus Pandemic Delays Census Count of Homeless


Photo courtesy of Pamela Michael.

Before the coronavirus pandemic broke out, the United States was ramping up its biggest peacetime mobilization: the Census. A complete count of all people in the nation is taken every 10 years, but this year, the shelter-in-place and social distancing orders to curb the spread of COVID-19 have forced the Census Bureau to adapt its timeline for the count.

This year, for the first time, the Census can be done online. Millions of households have received an invitation in the mail to complete the survey, and nationwide more than 20% of residents have done so. But there are many groups of people who won’t be counted this way. Some do not receive mail, some have no fixed address, or live in group settings. The Census staff who will be going into the field to count those communities are also practicing social distancing, so these counts have been delayed. Pamela Michael, a media specialist with the Census Bureau, lays out how the timelines have changed to protect the health of both enumerators and people who will be counted in person.

“The safety of the enumerators and of the people being counted are a primary concern. The enumerators will follow standard health department advisories on distances and if they’re to wear gloves, masks, they will follow those guidelines. As you can imagine, it’s a very delicate operation.” — Pamela Michael

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A segment from our radio show, “Civic.” Listen daily at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on 102.5 FM in San Francisco.