Tote bags with census resources for residents. (Courtesy photo from Josiah Gilliam/ City of Pittsburgh)

COVID-19 disrupted the census. But accurate counts are needed to guide aid, recovery efforts and maybe even vaccines.

For almost two years, the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County have been working together to intensively prepare for the 2020 census. The hardest-to-count populations were identified for targeted outreach; community leaders were pulled in to champion the cause; “census hubs,” where residents could go to have their questions answered, were planned throughout the county. 

Perhaps the one thing they didn’t plan for was a pandemic. “We had 150 designated locations throughout the county ready to go, and then the pandemic hit,” said Jessica Mooney, the county’s manager of special projects. Now, getting a complete count is not only harder — it’s also more vital. Census data dictates federal funding levels to local and state governments for food access programs, affordable housing, health systems and more.

The sculpture of Seneca leader Guyasuta and George Washington on Pittsburgh's Mt. Washington don masks amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Kimberly Rowen/PublicSource)

Should all Pennsylvanians start wearing face masks? Four local experts weigh in.

Editor's note: On April 3, Gov. Tom Wolf asked that all Pennsylvanians wear face masks when leaving home. Later on Friday afternoon, President Donald Trump shared new CDC guidance recommending cloth masks in public for everyone. The state and CDC says surgical masks and N95 respirator masks should still be reserved for healthcare workers or patients in healthcare settings. Homemade masks, paper masks or even bandanas and scarves can be used by the general public in addition to social distancing. Cloth masks should be washed after each use.

A brown haired toddler with a tracheotomy wears a hospital gown covered in panda bears as he sits on a hospital bed.

COVID-19 could kill my toddler. Stay home for him and others with underlying health conditions.

By necessity, I have to pay very close attention to what is going on in the world of infectious disease as the parent of a medically complex child. In the weeks leading up to COVID-19 reaching pandemic status, I began to circle the wagons, knowing that despite whatever measures were taken, we were going to have to go back into isolation.