The U.S. Census Bureau is delaying all field operations until April 1 as a result of the nation's efforts to delay the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus.
In an announcement Wednesday, bureau officials noted that 11 million American households had already responded to the census and that people are still strongly encouraged to "self-respond" by going online to 2020census.gov.
However, in order to help stop the spread of the virus, the bureau is suspending all field operations for two weeks.
"The Census Bureau will continue to evaluate all 2020 Census operations," bureau officials said in a news release. "Should any additional adjustments need to be made, the Census Bureau will communicate these changes broadly and promptly."
Also Wednesday, the bureau announced that its count of the country's homeless population has been postponed from March 30 to April 29, that it will continue to pay census employees during the suspension of activities and that enumerators, who are expected to be deployed in late-May, will be trained online and won't be allowed to gather in groups of more than 10.
Since the bureau's announcement, California and several smaller jurisdictions around the country have implemented shelter-in-place directives and people are being called upon to rigorously practice "social distancing."
All this in an effort to slow the COVID-19 disease, which grew to more than 15,000 U.S. cases and 201 deaths as of Thursday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The U.S. Census is the decennial effort by the federal government to count every person living in the country.
The data collected is used to apportion trillions of dollars in federal spending to state and local governments and supports dozens of social service programs that provide food and medical assistance, school construction and housing programs, among others.