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Weekly Update: DHS Response to COVID-19

Release Date: 
April 13, 2020

WASHINGTON – The Department of Homeland Security and its dedicated workforce across more than a dozen offices and components are working diligently with the White House to execute an unprecedented, whole-of America response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These strategic and tactical efforts range from coordinating critical air transportation to addressing medical supply shortages to expediting the inspection of vital goods at our borders, ensuring that our national supply chains remain abundant, accessible, and reliable.

“Everything we have done to this point has been unprecedented and everything we do in the coming weeks and months ahead focuses on life-safety and reducing suffering,” said FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor. “It is absolutely critical that we maintain our response efforts alongside our federal, state, local, tribal, and industry partners to ensure the virus’s spread is contained and human life is preserved.”

Below is a list of some of DHS’s efforts against COVID-19 last week:

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Deploying Federal Funds in Support of State Response Efforts. Federal funds are being deployed to help ensure that health care providers have the critical resources they need to provide rapid care and treatment to COVID-19 patients in hard-hit areas across the U.S. As of April 12th, FEMA has obligated $5.2 billion in support of state response efforts.

Increasing Availability of Critical Resources. As a part of the Supply Chain Stabilization Task Force, FEMA is executing a whole-of-America approach to address the limited supply of critical and life-saving equipment. As of April 12th, FEMA has coordinated the delivery of the following to areas in greatest need: 38 million N95 respirators, 32.6 million surgical masks, 5.5 million face shields, 4.7 million surgical gowns, 30.3 million gloves, 212,000 coveralls, and 10,448 ventilators. 

Expanding Surge Capacity in Highly-Impacted Areas. FEMA is focusing its allocation of resources in highly impacted areas experiencing the greatest increase in COVID-19 transmission and the greatest increase in forecasted capacity shortfalls.

  • On April 6th, FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced plans to convert three convention centers in Virginia into temporary hospital facilities. The facilities – the Dulles Expo Center in Northern Virginia and the Richmond and Hampton Roads convention centers – will be able to provide beds for 1,107 acute patients or 1,848 non-acute patients. The conversion is expected to be complete within six weeks.
     
  • On April 8th, FEMA and HHS delivered 80,000 nasopharyngeal swabs to various federal Community-Based Testing Sites (CBTS) locations to help surge testing capacity nationwide.
     
  • As of April 12th, FEMA has delivered 8,600 medical beds to surge capacity and care for an increased volume of COVID-19 patients across the U.S.

Coordinating Air Flights to Address Medical Supply Shortages. FEMA is expediting movement of critical supplies including masks, respirators, gloves, goggles and surgical gowns, from the global market to medical distributors in various locations across the U.S. This historic partnership with the private sector is named Project Air-Bridge. As of April 12th, 28 international flights have arrived in the U.S. with critical medical supplies. An additional 28 flights are scheduled over the next three weeks.

Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD)

Administering Medical Screenings at Airports. CWMD contract personnel are continuing to support the CDC with enhanced medical screenings for travelers through 13 specially designated airports. As of April 12th, CWMD has processed approximately 271,529 travelers for enhanced screening, including 1,491 who were referred to CDC for further medical evaluation.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Maintaining Domestic Supply of Critical Medical Equipment. On April 8th, CBP and FEMA announced that the federal government will begin restricting exports of PPE to ensure that critical supplies stay in the country to fight COVID-19.

Securing U.S. Borders. On April 9th, CBP provided an operational update on activities for the month of March. Total Border Patrol encounters have declined 7% total in March from February, and 76% since the height of the crisis last May. In addition, 80% of the people who CBP encountered since the March 21 enactment of Title 42 are being returned to the country from where they came within two hours.    

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)

Protecting Critical Workers and Infrastructure from Potential Threats. CISA regularly publishes guidance to help individuals, businesses, organizations, and governments protect their essential workers, while also improving their security posture against a myriad of potential threats throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • On April 6th, CISA updated its list of essential businesses. To date, 45 states and territories have published Essential Business Designations, 20 of them are referencing this list in their essential business designations, while 14 states or territories have incorporated CISA guidance fully into their own lists.
  • On April 8th, CISA and CDC issued new guidelines aimed at getting workers in critical infrastructure who may have been exposed to COVID-19 back to work faster. It also calls on employers to take steps to ensure workplace safety, like sending workers home immediately if they are sick and increasing air exchange in the workplace.

Protecting Against Malicious Cyber Actors. On April 8th, CISA and the United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre issued an activity alert titled, COVID-19 Exploited by Malicious Cyber Actors. This joint alert addresses the growing use of COVID-19-related themes by malicious cyber actors to attack individuals, businesses, and organizations with a range of ransomware and malware.

Protecting Networks and Cloud Environment. On April 9th, CISA released interim Trusted Internet Connections (TIC) guidance to aid agencies in securing their network and cloud environments. This guidance supports the current surge in teleworking and use of collaboration tools amongst the federal workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

Keeping Americans Safe While Ensuring Continuity of U.S. Travel: TSA continues to follow CDC guidance to protect its workers and the nation’s transportation system, while ensuring the
freedom of movement for people and commerce will not be impeded during the pandemic. Between April 5th and April 12th, TSA has screened more than 729,000 travelers who have all reached their destinations safely. 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

Bringing Americans Home. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in close coordination with the State Department, continues to bring stranded Americans home on the return leg of removal flights to Central America. Between March 22nd and April 10th, ICE has flown 1,037 individuals back to the U.S. from Columbia, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

Intelligence & Analysis (I&A)

Keeping the Homeland Safe, Secure and Resilient. On April 8th, DHS Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) published information to federal, state, local, tribal and territorial counterterrorism and law enforcement officials on the potential for COVID-19-related cyber threats and fraud. These threat-monitoring activities ensure the homeland is safe, secure, and resilient from hostile actors who might otherwise attempt to exploit the crisis to harm American lives.

United States Coast Guard (USCG)

Facilitating the Offload of Cruise Ships. The U.S. Coast Guard is working non-stop to protect the health and safety of Americans inbound to the U.S. while helping slow the spread of COVID-19. Between April 5th and April 10th, USCG facilitated the offload of 100 passengers and 881 crew members from one cruise ship in Florida and helped transfer 7 crew members from a second cruise ship to local hospitals. In Louisiana, the USCG worked with state and local authorities to disembark several healthy crew members after determining they were not infected with COVID-19.

Keeping the U.S. Maritime Supply Chain Open and Viable. As of April 12th, USCG is monitoring 38 commercial vessels with crew or passengers that have embarked from a coronavirus port of interest in the last 14 days.

Additional Information

Last Published Date: April 14, 2020
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