Census Bureau to suspend field operations until April 1
© Greg Nash

The U.S. Census Bureau announced on Wednesday that it will suspend field operations until April 1 to help deter the spread of the coronavirus. 

The Census Bureau will suspend in-person education efforts to limit person-to-person interaction due to the dangers of the virus. On March 15, it announced similar adaptations after college campuses began to close around the country because of the outbreak.

The bureau will refocus those education resources on phone calls instead of in-person visits.

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"As we continue to monitor the evolving COVID-19 outbreak, we will adjust census taker and survey operations as necessary in order to follow the guidance of federal, state and local health authorities," the agency said in a statement

The suspension comes amid the growing coronavirus pandemic that has reached more than 7,600 confirmed cases in the U.S. and left more than 100 dead as of Wednesday afternoon, according to data compiled from Johns Hopkins University.

“The Census Bureau is taking this step to help protect the health and safety of the American public, Census Bureau employees, and everyone going through the hiring process for temporary census taker positions,” the statement read. 

The bureau is less than a week into its 2020 operations and has reported receiving more than 11 million responses as of Wednesday morning. 

“During this pause in field operations, the Census Bureau will continue to evaluate all 2020 Census operations,” it added. “Should any additional adjustments need to be made, the Census Bureau will communicate these changes broadly and promptly.”

The census forms, which respondents can fill out online, by phone or by mail, will continue to arrive at homes across the country. In May, Census Bureau employees are scheduled to make in-person visits to households that have not completed the survey.

Other federal agencies such as the FBI have also taken precautions to encourage social distancing and slow the spread of the disease.