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2020 Census staff return to the field across northern Arizona
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2020 Census staff return to the field across northern Arizona

After months of delayed operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, staff with the 2020 census began delivering questionnaires to front doors this week.

“We’re excited to be back in the community delivering questionnaires,” said Tammy Parise, the Census Partnership Coordinator for Arizona.

The questionnaires census staff are delivering wont be received by everyone. Instead, they go out to households which rely solely on a postal box to receive their mail. For those households, census staff will be dropping off questionnaires to their front doors.

With as field operations resuming, Parise said the census also has to navigate the new challenges the pandemic has presented. In the case of delivering questionnaires, that means dropping off paperwork at homes without actually interacting with the residents.

“We are not knocking on the doors of households and therefor not interacting with the resident, rather we’re just leaving the questionnaire at the door of the resident,” Parise said.

And Parise said as staff continue to work in the field, staff will be following the regulation put in place bu the state and local governments to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Additionally, staff have been issued masks, gloves and sanitizer to use in the field or when door knocking eventually begins later in the year, Parise said. And staff are expected to use that personal protective equipment when social distancing is not possible, Parise said.

Earlier this year, Parise said the pandemic had effectively stopped their ground operations and as a result, she said the census has extended the timeline for when residents are able to respond.

“For self response, that was previously set at July 31, we have now extended the opportunity for households to respond to the census up to and including October 31. So we have an extended window for households to respond to the census,” Parise said.

So far in Coconino County the response rate has been low, only about 34%, but Parise chalked a lot of that up to the disruption of the census caused by COVID-19.

And because of that, Parise said now that their staff are once again in the field, she’s confident they’ll achieve a full count.

“COVID-19 presented challenges for us all but now that we're back in the field, households are receiving their questionnaire packets and are able to respond,” She said. “So we’ve adapted just like many others have.”

The virus also disrupted their ability to hire everyone they need and put many more employees essentially on furlough. Parise said they kept field offices open throughout the last few months but nonetheless, for many employees there was simply no work to do.

And Parise said all that means they are still looking to hire staff, primarily in Greenlee, Navajo and La Paz counties.

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