Monday, March 30, 2020

Census 2020: Getting A Complete Count During COVID-19

By Rachel Walker, LMC policy analysis manager 

Hey all, it’s Rachel, policy analysis manager at the League. I'm back with a "Census Eve" update and some ideas for getting a complete count even during pandemic response.

Last week I completed my online census form. It took about seven minutes to answer the questions about age and race for members of my household.

It was also the social studies lesson of the day for my two school-age children who are home due to the pandemic.

We had a good conversation about why an accurate count is important. They were pretty intrigued by how many "0"s there are in the dollar amount of funds distributed based on census numbers — nearly $600 billion! We also talked about the role of government in getting an accurate count.

We didn’t talk too much about why the coronavirus pandemic is going to make conducting the census a lot more challenging, but it will.

April 1 is Census Day

Census Day is April 1. A lot of communities around the state have been working diligently with local partners in complete count committees for months to help ensure a complete count. Many of the strategies involve in-person gatherings and close contact with others.

In order to keep Minnesotans healthy and follow the advice of experts, many of these strategies will have to evolve. The state demographer’s We Count Minnesota campaign recently released some suggestions for doing just that in upcoming weeks
following Census Day to complete the count.

Some examples:

  • Shift to phone call and email campaigns to encourage residents to complete the online census forms.
  • Secure testimonials from local community leaders that you can use in spreading the word.  
  • Identify low-response areas using the Census Bureau's response data and target outreach in those places. This interactive map from the Census Bureau is updated daily. 
  • Check out the Directory of Language Resources to help communicate effectively.
The state demographer’s website is a good place to go for more ideas and resources for promoting the census during this time.

If you have questions or concerns about how your team can most effectively redirect your resources and energy, please reach out to Andrew Virden, the director of census operations and outreach in Minnesota, at (651) 201-2507 or

P.S. We love these census hero posters! These images and more are available to share from the state demographer in high-resolution pdf files.

Check out more of Rachel's census updates:

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

How Your City Social Media Accounts Can Support COVID-19 Preparation

Cities across the state are thinking about how to prepare their organizations and their communities for the arrival of coronavirus (COVID-19), a new respiratory virus. Preparation can be built into many regular city activities – from personnel policies to parks and rec. Another place you can help prepare your community is online through your social media channels. Here are six tips for using your city’s social media to better prepare your community:

1.    Seek out and share official, accurate information.

Identify which official agencies are taking the lead in your community to distribute health information and share their updates to help distribute accurate information. The Minnesota Department of Health's COVID-19 page is a good place to start. Include a note that says the city wants to keep residents informed with the best and most trustworthy information available.

Viruses don't discriminate and neither should we. Stigma will NOT fight coronavirus. Sharing accurate information will. Learn more:
MDH has a variety of resources your city
can share to distribute accurate information
to your residents about COVID-19.

2.    Keep your language calm and clear. 

It’s easy to share on social — do you want to share information or fear? Information + preparation = better outcomes for everyone. Be mindful of tone, and don’t mock, diminish, or ridicule anything related to the pandemic. This is a good idea for any topic, really.

3.    Recognize those who are experiencing harm and how you can help mitigate that. 

Use correct terminology for the disease: It is “COVID-19” formally, or “coronavirus” informally. Make it clear that your community will not tolerate racist behavior toward people of Asian descent, or any other heritage for that matter. Encourage residents to continue supporting local businesses as appropriate and as advised by health professionals. You can download a "Viruses Don’t Discriminate” poster from the MDH to help.

4.    Translate! 

If you are posting or sharing updates about how to
This is a screengrab of a video showing a man in a black suit signing information about coronavirus. The link to th video is available in the post.
There are resources to help you communicate with
people who need to access information in different formats.
prepare, prevent, or respond, consider who in your community will benefit from a translation of that post. Resources in Hmong, Somali, and Spanish are available from the Minnesota Department of Health. If you are sharing an infographic, make sure that the fundamental information in the infographic is also available in text format in your post or linked on a website for people with low vision or who use screen readers. An MDH video is also available on Youtube providing information about coronavirus in American Sign Language.

5.    Provide fun city content for those who need to stay inside. 

Share your library's online resources, boost your city’s photo contest results, or link to city publications. Use engaging questions and city-themed prompts to provide a “mental break” on people’s feeds: What’s your favorite sign of spring in your city? When someone comes to visit, what is your favorite spot in town to snap a photo? Any landmark-themed haikus out there?

And of course, wash your hands. :) City communicators are a valuable asset to the community and staying healthy is critical to that work. Looking for broader communication resources? Check out this page from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dedicated to public health communicators.

The League recorded a webinar on March 12 to address how local governments can prepare. Find more information about the webinar and city preparation resources here: