Census
Census

The U.S. Census Bureau said Wednesday it’s suspending all field operations for the 2020 count until April 1 on coronavirus concerns.

The bureau will continue to evaluate all 2020 Census operations during the pause, according to a statement released Wednesday in Washington. Americans can continue to respond online or via phone.

“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,” U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham said in the statement.

For other household and economic surveys separate from the decennial count, workers will use phone calls instead of in-person visits, according to the statement. In cases requiring in-person visits, officials will consult with public health authorities to make sure the work is done safely. The Census Bureau works with the Labor Department to produce its monthly employment report.

The 2020 Census will determine the allocation of hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding over the next 10 years as well as the number of seats each state has in Congress.

In 2010, about two-thirds of the country responded to the survey without an in-person follow-up. In late May, census takers will begin following up in-person with civilians who have yet to respond, and this process may prove more challenging — or impossible — if the coronavirus continues to spread. That could lead to the undercount of various hard-to-count populations like minorities and young children.