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Weekly Update: DHS Response to COVID-19

Release Date: 
July 20, 2020

The Department of Homeland Security remains vigilant against the COVID-19 virus and continues to lead the national response to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on American citizens and workers. As the nation transitions to a phased approach of reopening the economy the Department and its components remain steadfast in their commitment to ensure a safe, secure, and prosperous Homeland for the American people.

“The U.S Coast Guard, as the lead federal agency in the maritime domain, continues to ‘stand the watch’ through the ongoing global pandemic” said Capt. Alexander Foos, Chief, Office of Reserve Policy and Requirements Integration (CG-R5). “The USCG has recalled and deployed 342 reservists since the beginning of the pandemic. They are activated to serve in numerous types of roles, including work in IT support, medical clinics, PPE warehouses, command centers and other incident management roles, notably assisting federal partners such as HHS, and supporting state emergency operations centers on behalf of FEMA. It’s the Coast Guard mission to fulfill our civil and military responsibilities to protect America’s security, prosperity, and other national interest.”

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

United States Coast Guard (USCG)

Monitoring Vessels that Pose a Risk to Public Health. As of July 18th, the USCG is tracking 67 cruise ships moored, at anchor, or underway in vicinity of a U.S. port, or with potential to arrive in a US port, with 14,382 crewmembers. This includes an estimated 244 American Citizens crewmembers dispersed among 37 vessels. The Coast Guard is working with the CDC based on its extension of the No Sail Order for cruise ships, which permits the off-loading of crewmembers following submission of a plan to the CDC.

Contact Tracing. On July 15th, the Coast Guard formalized its Contact Tracing Program, in order to keep their workforce and families safe. Contact Tracing is a 100-year-old proven scientific method to track, slow and even stop the spread of an epidemic or outbreak. It protects the Coast Guard’s readiness to carry out their critical missions.

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)

Issuing Cyber Alerts to Protect Against Malicious Actors. On July 16th, CISA along with the UK’s National Cyber Security Center, Canada’s Communications Security Establishment, and the National Security Agency, released a Joint Cybersecurity Advisory to expose malicious cyber actors using a variety of tools and techniques to target organizations involved in COVID-19 research and vaccine development. Since the onset of the COVID pandemic, CISA alongside our government and industry partners across the globe, have been on the watch – identifying threats, helping organizations protect themselves, and responding to any incidents. For the specific malware tools mentioned in the advisory, the malwares are identified to be used by various advanced persistent threat groups and CISA released analysis reports to help network defenders identify, mitigate and protect against these threats.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Coordinating Deployment of Federal Personnel to Support States’ Efforts. FEMA continues to lead the operational coordination for the federal interagency response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of July 20th, there are 2,275 FEMA personnel, 26,449 DoD and National Guard personnel and 406 HHS personnel deployed across the country to support state, local, tribal and territorial COVID-19 response efforts. FEMA and our interagency partners are constantly tailoring staffing and resources across agencies, always ensuring we can provide support when and where it’s needed most.

Providing Critical Funding and Personal Protective Equipment. As of July 17th, FEMA and HHS have obligated $135.9 billion in support of COVID-19 efforts. As of July 15th, FEMA and HHS have coordinated the delivery of 103.1 million N95 respirators, 159.3 million surgical masks, 17.2 million face shields, 139.4 million gloves, 68.4 million surgical gowns and 6.1 million coveralls.

Supporting Administration’s COVID-19 Testing Strategy. FEMA continues to source and procure testing material – specifically, testing swabs and transport media – to support the White House Coronavirus Task Force and the Administration’s Testing Blueprint. As of July 19th, FEMA has procured and delivered more than 41 million swabs and 32.1 million units of media. The FEMA-sourced material will be provided to states, territories, and tribes for a limited duration to help increase testing capacity in support of their individualized plans.

Protecting our Nation’s Nursing Homes. As of July 18th, FEMA has shipped 29,191 packages of medical supplies to nursing homes in 53 states and territories. FEMA coordinated two shipments totaling a 14-day supply of personal protective equipment to all 15,400 Medicaid and Medicare-certified nursing homes. The shipments will supplement existing efforts to provide equipment to nursing homes.

Providing Full Federal Reimbursement for States’ National Guard Forces. As of July 19th, 25,405 National Guard troops have activated in T-32 duty status and 312 troops have activated in State Active Duty status to help with testing and other response efforts. To date, President Trump has approved 50 National Guard requests for federal support for the use of National Guard personnel in a Title 32 duty status through August 21. For those states and territories that are approved under these criteria, FEMA executed a fully reimbursable mission assignment to the Department of Defense, including reimbursement for pay and allowances of National Guard personnel serving in a Title 32 duty status in fulfillment of the FEMA mission assignment.

Office of Operations Coordination (OPS)

Ensuring Departmental Continuity of Operations (COOP) during COVID-19. OPS continues to lead efforts to ensure that the Department implements strategies and capabilities to ensure continuity of operations during the COVID-19 pandemic and capture strategic lessons learned for future planning. On July 16th, OPS held a working group to advance the Department’s planning efforts and communications capabilities to ensure the continuation of critical DHS operations to protect the security and health of the America people in response to any increased impact from COVID-19 or other threats/hazards.

Science and Technology (S&T)

Driving Evidence-Based Policymaking. On July 17th, the DHS Science and Technology Directorate updated its Master Question List (MQL), and does so weekly to compile available research on operationally-relevant questions to aid decision makers in the COVID-19 response. The MQL is a quick-reference guide covering what is known about the virus, what additional information is needed, and who may be working to address these fundamental questions. New entries include references to an observational study, reported in Clinical Infectious Disease, that within the US, each day of delay in emergency declarations and school closures was associated with a 5 to 6 percent increase in mortality, and a modeling study suggests that healthcare workers are primarily at risk from droplet and inhalation exposure, with greater risk while in closer proximity to patients. Additionally, a study conducted by USARMRIID and published in medRxiv, indicated that at room temperature (71.6°F), SARS-CoV-2 remains detectable on currency for up to 24 hours, on clothing for up to 4 hours, and on skin for up to 96 hours. Persistence is reduced with warmer temperatures (98.6°F), and enhanced at colder temperatures (39.2°F).

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

Keeping Americans Safe While Ensuring Continuity of U.S. Travel and Commerce. Between July 12th and July 18th, TSA screened more than 4,655,279 passengers, who have all reached their destinations safely. TSA officers are required to wear facial protection and gloves while on duty at the checkpoint and the agency continues to follow CDC guidance to protect Americans, its workers, and the nation’s transportation system, in support of air travel and all other modes of transportation.

Ready to Ensure Safety During the Summer Travel Period. On July 14th, TSA Administrator Pekoske visited Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina to thank TSA employees for their hard work and dedication during the pandemic. He also spotlighted the agency’s “Stay Healthy. Stay Secure” campaign which outlines significant airport checkpoint modifications implemented to contain the spread of COVID-19, comply with CDC guidelines, and support healthy and secure summer travel.

United States Secret Service (USSS)

Combating COVID-19 unemployment fraud. The U.S Secret Service continues to expose fraudulent activity related to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and remains committed to combating COVID-19 unemployment fraud. On July 9th, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana announced the arrest and charges of a mother and daughter for COVID-19 related unemployment fraud. This case was the result of an investigation by the United States Secret Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Ft. Branch, Indiana Police Department. The Secret Service will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate and arrest criminals who attempt to defraud the critical COVID-19 relief programs and the American taxpayer.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

Keeping the Public Safe from COVID-19-related Fraud. ICE’s Operation Stolen Promise (OSP) targets fraudulent activity stemming from the pandemic. The initiative combines ICE’s Homeland Security Investigation’s (HSI) expertise in global trade investigations, financial fraud, and cyber investigations with robust private and public partnerships to disrupt and dismantle this criminal activity and strengthen global supply-chain security. As of July 16th, as part of OSP, the agency has made 51 criminal arrests, analyzed 50,429 COVID-19-related domains, seized more than $6.9 million in illicit proceeds, disrupted 42 instances of illicit activity, sent 1,182 leads to domestic and international field offices, executed 70 search warrants and made 881 COVID-19-related seizures to include prohibited test kits and pharmaceuticals, counterfeit masks and more.COVID-19-related seizures to include prohibited test kits and pharmaceuticals, counterfeit masks and more.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Getting American Citizens Home Safe. CBP continues to collaborate on a daily basis with the Department of State (DOS) to facilitate the safe travel of American citizens currently abroad to return home. CBP also works closely with DOS and foreign consulates to review 212(f) National Interest Waiver requests. This week, CBP coordinated with an air ambulance service for the repatriation of a US Citizen and her Guatemalan husband (a COVID-19 positive patient) who was traveling to the US for medical care. The flight from Guatemala City, Guatemala to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport arrived on July 13th.

Additional Information

 

Last Published Date: July 21, 2020
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