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Weekly Update: DHS Response to COVID-19

Release Date: 
August 4, 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.

“TSA remains committed to the health and safety of our frontline workers and airline travelers,” said Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator David Pekoske. “We’ve implemented prudent changes, highlighted in our ongoing Stay Healthy Stay Secure campaign, to our airport screening procedures. Those changes seek to limit physical contact through acrylic barriers and various touchless technologies throughout the checkpoint, as well as adhering to social distancing guidance from the CDC while achieving the security standards needed to protect the public. It is noteworthy that every partner with a stake in the passenger travel experience is equally committed to ensuring the safety and health of transportation workers and airline travelers.”

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

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)

Focusing on Election Security. On July 28th-30th, CISA hosted the third annual Tabletop the Vote exercise, examining realistic scenarios that could impact voter confidence, voting operations, and the integrity of the elections. This year’s exercise included discussions of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on election processes and adjustments or new measures election officials have implemented to keep voters and poll workers safe. Approximately 2,100 members of the election community participated over the course of three days.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Providing Critical Personal Protective Equipment and Funding. As of August 3rd, FEMA has obligated $8.8 billion in support of COVID-19 efforts, including funding for PPE, temporary medical facilities, Title 32 National Guard troops, Crisis Counseling, Public Assistance Category B Emergency Protective Measures and other critical commodities. As of July 27th, FEMA and HHS have coordinated the delivery of 105.1 million N95 respirators, 159.3 million surgical masks, 17.6 million face shields, 132.5 million gloves, 68.7 million surgical gowns and 6.2 million coveralls.

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 31st, there are over 29,000 federal personnel deployed across the country from FEMA, CDC, HHS, DoD, and National Guard 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.

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 30th, FEMA has procured and delivered more than 41.9 million swabs and 32.8 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.

Providing Full Federal Reimbursement for States’ National Guard Forces. As of July 31st, 23,516 National Guard troops have activated in T-32 duty status and 252 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)

Supporting Departmental Information Sharing and Operational Coordination. On July 28th, an Operations Deputies Board (OPSDEPS) convened to discuss the Department’s response to COVID-19 with a focus on DHS workforce safety, response coordination, and continuity.

Science and Technology (S&T)

Mobilizing the Innovation Community. On July 24, the DHS Science and Technology Directorate issued an Other Transaction solicitation through its Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP) calling for technologies to address near-term needs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Potential solutions discovered from the Emerging Needs: COVID-19 Response & Future Mitigation Topic Call invites start-up and the innovation community to submit technology solutions that could serve the mission needs of DHS operational components and have a broader application to enhancing operations and preparing for future mitigation. There will be a Virtual Industry Day for potential participants will be held on August 18th, 12:30 – 4:00 p.m.. Applications are due on September 30th, 2020.

Driving Evidence-Based Policymaking. On July 28th, 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 an article by medRxiv highlighted that infectious virus has been found in aerosol samples from COVID-19 patient hospital rooms, primarily in small particles, an article published in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice noting results from mobile phone data, that social distancing reduced the frequency of encounters between individuals, the frequency of non-essential visits to stores, and overall movement distance, which in turn reduced the effective transmission rate of SARS-CoV-2, an article in Infectious Disease Modelling which highlighted modeling efforts that indicate masks can be effective even when individual mask efficiency is low, though their benefits are maximized when most of the population wears masks.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

Keeping Americans Safe While Ensuring Continuity of U.S. Travel and Commerce. Between July 26th and August 1st, TSA screened more than 4,755,867 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 29th, TSA hosted a call with cargo program stakeholders as part of the agency’s efforts to continue engaging directly with industry partners throughout the pandemic. On July 30th, TSA Administrator Pekoske met with members of the Surface Transportation Security Advisory Committee (STSAC) and thanked them for their continued contributions while carrying out their industry responsibilities during these unprecedented times due to COVID-19. TSA continues to promote its “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 Coast Guard (USCG)

Monitoring Vessels that Pose a Risk to Public Health. As of July 30th, the USCG is tracking 65 cruise ships moored, at anchor, or underway in vicinity of a U.S. port, or with potential to arrive in a US port, with approximately 13,234 crewmembers. This includes an estimated 209 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.

Reservists Supporting The Fight Against COVID-19. As of July 31st, the USCG has recalled and deployed 374 Reservists in support of COVID-19 operations. 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.

United States Secret Service (USSS)

Preventing Moneymules. On July 30th, the Secret Service released a Public Service Announcement cautioning everyone against becoming a money mule, or individual who transfers illegally obtained money on behalf of others using bank accounts, wire transfers, money orders, or checks. Criminals are using the unprecedented national response to the coronavirus pandemic as an opportune moment to further their criminal behavior. To avoid being detected by law enforcement, criminals use money laundering techniques to conceal the identity, source, and destination of illicitly obtained money. Criminals often prey on unsuspecting individuals by creating elaborate stories to assume false identities to gain your trust by pretending to be an entrepreneur or someone looking for romance.

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 31, as part of OSP, the agency has made 55 criminal arrests, analyzed 52,424 COVID-19-related domains, seized more than $7,639,071 million in illicit proceeds, disrupted 43 instances of illicit activity, sent 1,238 leads to domestic and international field offices, executed 75 search warrants and made 946 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..

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

Completed Postponed Naturalization Ceremonies Due to COVID-19. On July 29th, USCIS Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow addressed the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship and announced that USCIS has now completed all pending oaths that were temporarily put on hold due to COVID-19. Since reopening USCIS offices to the public and resuming in-person services on June 4th, the agency’s top priority has been to resume naturalization ceremonies for those whose ceremonies were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Getting American Citizens Home Safe. As of July 29th, CBP has referred 519,397 travelers to DHS CWMD for enhanced health screening at 15 designated a airports across the country. CBP continues to collaborate daily with the Department of State (DOS) to facilitate the safe return of American citizens currently abroad and work closely with DOS and foreign consulates to review 212(f) National Interest Waiver requests.

Additional Information

Last Published Date: August 5, 2020
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