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2020 Census Counters Back In The Field In Rural Parts Of Oregon

Census envelopes
Hansi Lo Wang

After a nearly three-month delay because of the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Census is now picking up the 2020 count again in certain states, including Oregon.

The census is only resuming field operations in states where it has been given the go-ahead from state and local health officials. It has yet to resume field operations in California.

Census workers in Oregon are first focusing on rural areas where most people receive their mail through post office boxes.

“In these areas where people don’t have home mail delivery and we can’t mail them their census invitation, we have to actually drop it off at their home,” says U.S. Census Bureau regional director Jeff Enos.

In a press release, the bureau says its temporary field staff will practice social distancing and they will wear government-provided protective equipment, including face masks.

Enos says it’s important to count everyone in the decennial census because federal funds are often distributed based on 10-year census data. These numbers could also impact political representation at the local and national level.

“From the House of Representatives in Washington DC to the statehouse in Salem to the local jurisdictions — in order to be represented, in order to be counted in each level of government, we need to participate,” Enos says.

The Census Bureau began hand-delivering census materials on March 15, but it had to suspend fieldwork a few days later because of the pandemic. The bureau has been doing field operations since last fall with an expected completion date in early August. Its new deadline for completing fieldwork is in early November.

April Ehrlich is JPR content partner at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Prior to joining OPB, she was a regional reporter at Jefferson Public Radio where she won a National Edward R. Murrow Award.