GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Census workers are reaching the point when they are going door to door to get people to respond to the decennial survey if you haven’t yet already. 

In the age of coronavirus, things are going to look a bit different as the newly extended deadline approaches.

Senior Chief of Public Information for the U.S. Census Bureau Michael Cook explained some of the changes. 

“Later this summer for those households that haven’t responded either online or by phone or by mail, we will be going out and encouraging them to respond in person,” Cook said. “We’ll be doing it in a way that people will be pleased. Our staff will be wearing (personal protective equipment), they’ll have masks. If you self-respond now, you won’t have to come in contact with anybody.”

The Census Bureau extended the deadline and counting operations because of COVID-19. You now have until the end of October to fill out your census information online or by mail. 

Even still, Cook says certain areas are still behind in responding.

Some of those areas represent difficult populations to reach during the census count and some of the harder spots are here in West Michigan. 

The Census Bureau has identified several areas within the Grand Rapids region as “hard to reach zones” over the last decade. They include college towns like Allendale and communities of color like southwest Grand Rapids. 

Cook says despite the lag, Grand Rapids census results are right on par with the national average response of 62 percent. 

To increase that figure, the bureau has worked directly with Grand Valley State University to increase its count.

Likewise, they’ve spent the last 10 years identifying trusted voices within communities of color to help spread the news that the census is easy, the info you share is safe and the results are important.

“Responding to the census may seem a little scary to people who haven’t been in the United States for a long time or you might have heard that the census might be used against you or that it might be something nefarious,” Cook said. “It only takes a couple of moments, but it impacts your life for 10 years. Political representation as well, not only the federal level but also the state level.”

Once again, the best thing you can do to be counted at this point and to avoid any human interaction us to respond to the census by mail or online.