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2020 Census: Push for responses picks up pace

Vicky O. Misa

The U.S. Census Bureau is beginning to send reminder notice postcards to an estimated 55 million households that have not yet responded to the 2020 Census.

Some states are progressing better than others; Oklahoma is not among them.

As of Tuesday, Oklahoma was sitting at a 50.9-percent response rate — several points below the national average, which stands at 56.8 percent right now.

Though the state as a whole struggles to plug in its numbers, several counties are pushing ahead.

Canadian County leads the state at 63.8 percent of households responding.

Though ranked No. 11 among Oklahoma counties, Pottawatomie County's self-response rate is closing in on the national average, marking 55.1 percent so far. Reports show Shawnee has a 56.4-percent response rate, as of Tuesday.

Response rates for cities in the area are:

• Tecumseh — 56.7 percent

• Seminole — 49.3 percent

• Bethel Acres — 60.4 percent

• McLoud — 53.6 percent

• Prague — 18.8 percent

• Meeker — 43.4 percent

• Earlsboro — 48.5 percent

Nation

According to the 2020 Census website, at 2020census.gov, about 53.4 percent of households across the country have already responded since invitations began arriving in mailboxes on March 12.

According to the Census Bureau’s online response map tracking the nation’s participation in the census, almost 79 million households have already responded online, by phone or by mail.

COVID-19 precautions

Some areas where census takers were originally going to personally hand deliver forms will now receive a letter in the mail from the Census Bureau reminding them to participate. Even if households don’t receive a letter in the mail, the Census Bureau will drop off a census invitation and paper form as soon as it is safe to do so.

The Census Bureau, in coordination with federal, state and local health officials, will begin a phased restart of some 2020 Census field operations in select geographic areas this week.

Updates on the operations resuming by location are available at 2020census.gov. This webpage will be updated weekly as operations resume across the U.S.

All returning staff is receiving safety training to observe social distancing protocols in the COVID-19 environment. They will also use government-provided personal protective equipment (PPE) for their safety and the safety of the public. The Census Bureau has ordered face masks, gloves and hand sanitizer for all field staff — including those who work in the field offices. For area census offices (ACO), the Census Bureau has also ordered disinfectant wipes.

As part of the phased restart of operations, the Census Bureau will resume dropping off 2020 Census invitation packets at front doors of households in areas where the majority of households do not receive mail at their home. This operation is also known as Update Leave. About 5 percent of households are counted in the Update Leave operation, where census workers will confirm or update a household’s physical location address and then leave a census questionnaire packet.

The Census Bureau began delivering census materials to those households mid-March; however, the operation was suspended just three days later because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Update Leave operation does not require interaction between households and a Census Bureau employee and follows the most current federal health and safety guidelines. ACO staff will begin returning to the office as necessary to support the Update Leave operation, as well.

Unresponsive

Households are receiving another reminder postcard in the mail now. The Census Bureau pushed back the mailing to allow the paper questionnaire package to arrive several days ahead of the postcard. The postcard is one reminder in a series of reminders that the Census Bureau has mailed non-responding households since mid-March urging them to respond.

Census takers will visit every address that does not respond on their own to collect responses in person.

The Census Bureau is strongly encouraging the public to respond online at 2020census.gov.

Households that have not yet responded to the census will receive an in-person visit by a census taker to collect their information later this summer.

Jobs available

The U.S. Census Bureau continues to accept applications for temporary part-time positions with the 2020 Census.

By the numbers

States with the highest response rate for the 2020 Census include:

Minnesota 64.0 percent

Iowa 61.2 percent

Wisconsin 60.8 percent

Nebraska 60.7 percent

Michigan 60 percent

Information from 2020census.gov.