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Restrictions to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus makes it harder to reach hard-to-count communities.

US CENSUS - US Census 2020 logoOutreach efforts to increase the 2020 U.S. Census are being cut back because of the COVID-19 crisis, potentially reducing the number of hard-to-reach residents who participate.

Alternative activities are ramping up both nationally and in Oregon, including a statewide Virtual Census Day to promote participation on Wednesday, April 1.

Federal law requires the U.S. Census Bureau to identify and count every resident every 10 years, including this year. But some people — including those in traditionally underserved communities — are historically undercounted. To reach as many people as possible, census workers go door-to-door and nonprofit organizations participate in campaigns to encourage participation. This year, Oregon, Portland and the United Way funded We Count Oregon to coordinate and implement the statewide campaign for hard-to-reach communities.

But the novel coronavirus outbreak is upending these efforts by restricting gatherings, outside activities and in-person contacts. As a result, the bureau has suspended its 2020 Census field operations until Wednesday, April 15. Counting people in group quarters such as shelters and nursing homes has been pushed back one month to April 29, 30 and May 1.

We Count Oregon also has been forced to curtail some activities. Census Assistance Centers set up in libraries and other public buildings have been shut down. Group meetings to educate people about the importance of the census also have been cancelled.

Some new and expanded strategies are being used, however. The bureau is setting up call centers and increasing the use of social media to encourage participation. It also is reminding people that completing the census is their constitutional duty.

We Count Oregon also is still getting the word out and will be conducting online Census trainings, phone banking and texting, and social media campaigns. Official dates of these efforts are to be determined.

In addition, Wednesday, April 1, Census Days planned for around the state are being replaced with a coordinated statewide Virtual Census Day Celebration from noon to 2 p.m. on April 1, in partnership with Gov. Kate Brown's office, the Oregon Complete Count Committee, Oregon's Tribal Nations and CEFCO.

You can join Oregon's virtual Census Day here.

The good news is, the bureau announced that as of Monday, there is already a national self-response rate of 33.1%. But achieving the goal of identifying and counting everyone in the country is an increasingly complicated goal.

You can learn more and respond to the census here.

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