Herald-Whig View

Census cannot take back seat in wake of COVID-19

Posted: Mar. 22, 2020 12:20 am

A ONCE unthinkable situation has become our new normal, at least for now. On Friday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a stay-at-home order for the state, which took effect at 5 p.m. Saturday.

No, we don't like it any more than anyone else, but it was the prudent course of action in the face of a COVID-19 pandemic that has seen cases in the United States double about every three days this month. The hope, of course, is that limiting the contact between individuals will slow down the spread of the virus and give our health care system a fighting chance to care for all the people who likely still will contract the illness.

That doesn't mean, however, that life can come to a halt. Yes, many businesses -- including The Herald-Whig -- have closed their doors to the public, but essential services, such as grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations -- will remain open, though in many cases for different hours than you might be accustomed to.

So for now, we wait and pray.

While we wait, there are things we can do to help make sure that life picks up as close to the normal we once knew when this is all over.

One of those things is to heed the census form mailed to our homes in recent weeks. Quincy Mayor Kyle Moore and other city officials stressed the importance of that simple act Friday morning.

"This is certainly going to be a challenge," Moore said at a news conference.

In past years, churches, libraries and other civic groups would help encourage people to fill out the forms. But with social distancing efforts due to the novel coronavirus, many of those mechanisms are no longer feasible or safe. The traditional door-to-door enumerators who record individual household counts are set to begin their work in July, but if the pandemic stretches into summer, even that could be on hold.

Now, the city is taking the message to residents by posting fliers and posters in grocery stores and apartment complexes to get the message to as many people as possible.

So it is more important than ever that residents take the initiative to fill out their forms and respond to the Census Bureau. It is vital that as many people as possible respond. An undercount could literally cost the area millions of dollars in federal funding.

Everyone who refuses to respond or simply ignores the census is actively taking away money from programs such as Meals on Wheels and for free and reduced-price lunches for students. Money to operate Quincy Transit Lines, a lifeline to work for many in the city, also is on the line.

There is a silver lining here, though: While people are working from home, there really is no reason to not take time to fill out the forms and respond. Take a couple minutes and do your civic duty.

We all are counting on you.