Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled Isabella Fitzgerald’s name.
As if getting an accurate count of everyone currently residing in Pennsylvania wasn’t difficult enough, the continued outbreak of COVID-19 across the commonwealth has made the initiative, which began earlier this month, grueling.
To combat the risk of COVID-19 exposure, Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary Dennis Davin said the earlier Pennsylvanians respond to the decennial survey, the better.
“The sooner individuals respond via phone or online, they are assisting in social distancing efforts to limit Census workers being required to follow-up on invitations by making door-to-door visits,” Davin said in a statement Thursday.
This year marks the first time a census questionnaire will be available online and that couldn’t have come at a better time for census enumerators and officials.
“We encourage all Pennsylvanians to take immediate advantage of the new option to respond to Census invitations online this year as DCED continues to monitor the COVID-19 spread statewide and works with the administration to encourage social distancing to protect the health of our communities,” Davin said.
On the eastern side of the state, where the reports of COVID cases continue to flood the local healthcare system, officials are stressing the importance of the census count and the need for caution simultaneously.
“In light of the coronavirus pandemic, I encourage our neighbors to fill out their 2020 Census forms online to stay safe and help keep census workers healthy in the face of COVID-19,” newly elected state Rep. Roni Green, D-Philadelphia, said in a statement.
Green also announced a DCED grant of $10,000 to Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture, a Philadelphia organization that “serves youth and adults of all ethnic, religious and socio-economic backgrounds,” to help promote awareness and participation in the 2020 census among hard-to-count populations such as immigrants, ethnic minorities, the homeless and those who identify as LGBTQ.
Two other Philadelphia Democratic lawmakers, Reps. Isabella Fitzgerald and JoAnna McClinton echoed Green’s comments on COVID-19 and the census.
McClinton welcomed a DCED grant to the Coalition of African Communities.
“As I help to protect my communities from COVID-19, I am also stressing the need for my neighbors to take part in the 2020 Census,” she said.
Philadelphia had 33 recorded cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday afternoon.
“The well-being of my constituents is my top priority,” Fitzgerald said. “Participating in the census digitally allows a person to practice social distancing while making sure they don’t miss out.”