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Weekly Update: DHS Response to COVID-19

Release Date: 
August 18, 2020

As civil unrest and COVID-19 continue to impact our nation, the Department of Homeland Security remains focused on securing the homeland from foreign and domestic threats. The Department’s component agencies play a key role in the COVID-19 national response by creating, utilizing, and sharing resources, while agencies like FLETC train new officers on how to honorably protect the American people. With the hard work of this Department, our nation continues to make progress in its recovery. DHS values the safety of the American people and will continue to secure the homeland.

“Since resuming training on June 17 after a three-month pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FLETC community has trained over 2,000 law enforcement officers,” said FLETC Director Thomas J. Walters. “Our entire community, DHS, DOJ, DOI, DOS, DOD, and others contributed to the effort and benefited from our results. Our consultations with DHS medical offices has been key to our ability to develop effective and practical risk mitigation protocols.”

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

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)

Protecting Against Cyber Scams. On August 12th, CISA released a cyber alert of an unknown malicious cyber actor who is spoofing the Small Business Administration (SBA) COVID-19 relief webpage via phishing emails. These emails include a malicious link to a spoofed SBA website used for malicious re-directs and credential stealing. Small business owners and organizations at all levels should review the alert and apply the recommended mitigations to strengthen the security posture of their systems. CISA encourages individuals to share this alert with anyone who might be able to use it.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Providing Grants to States for Supplemental Lost Wages Payments. To ease the economic burden for those struggling with lost wages due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, President Trump authorized FEMA to expend up to $44 billion from the Disaster Relief Fund for lost wage payments. On August 15th, Administrator Gaynor approved the states of Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana, and New Mexico for the first FEMA grants under this unprecedented program. FEMA’s grant funding will allow the approved states to provide those unemployed due to COVID-19 $300 per week on top of their regular unemployment benefit. The President's authorization for FEMA to use the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) to supplement the payment of lost wages as a result of COVID-19 is in addition to the $8.8 billion FEMA has already obligated to date in the fight against COVID-19.

Providing Full Federal Reimbursement for States’ National Guard Forces. On August 3rd, President Trump granted an extension for the use of the National Guard under Federal Title 32 orders to respond to COVID-19 until December 31, 2020. As of August 13th, 19,490 National Guard troops have activated in T-32 duty status and 301 troops have activated in State Active Duty status to help with testing and other response efforts. To date, President Trump has approved 49 National Guard requests for federal support for the use of National Guard personnel in a Title 32 duty status through December 31. 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.

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 August 13th, there are over 24,000 federal personnel deployed across the country from FEMA, HHS, CDC, DoD, National Guard and VA to support state, local, tribal and territorial COVID-19 response efforts. FEMA and our interagency partners are constantly tailoring staffing and resources across agencies, ensuring we can provide support when and where it’s needed most.

Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC)

Graduating the Next Generation of Law Enforcement. As of August 12th, nearly 2,000 officers and agents have successfully graduated and are now in the field performing work that is critical to protect the homeland since training was restarted on June 17th. There are currently 1,743 students attending in-residence training at Glynco, Charleston, and Artesia training delivery points. There are an additional 89 students attending training at the Cheltenham training delivery point and 1,601 enrolled in training through E-FLETC (online learning). Their graduation in the coming months and the continual influx of new students ensures that our federal law enforcement partners receive the trained personnel they need to help keep our nation secure.

Science and Technology (S&T)

Driving Evidence-Based Policymaking. On August 11, 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 on Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology noted that pulsed xenon ultraviolet light was able to decontaminate SARS-CoV-2 on respirators with 1-5 minute exposures.
  • An article in The Washington Post, reported there is no Phase I or Phase II efficacy data for Gamaleya’s “Sputnik V” vaccine, despite press reports claiming positive safety and efficacy results.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

Keeping Americans Safe While Ensuring Continuity of U.S. Travel and Commerce. Between August 9th and August 15th, TSA screened more than 4,979,279 passengers, who have all reached their destinations safely. TSA officers are required to wear facial protection and gloves while on duty at the checkpoint. In support of air travel and all other modes of transportation, the agency continues to follow CDC guidance to protect Americans, its workers, and the nation’s transportation system. 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, support healthy and secure summer travel.

Ready to Ensure Safety During the Summer Travel Period. On August 10th, TSA released a national press release regarding an alarming increase in gun catches at airports nationwide although passenger volumes remain well below 2019 levels due to COVID-19. Travelers were reminded that firearms are prohibited in the passenger cabins of all commercial aircraft and must be properly packaged and declared in checked baggage. On August 13th, TSA Administrator Pekoske visited Philadelphia International Airport to conduct an airport tour of checkpoint changes in response to COVID-19 and met with PHL employees to remind them to take precautions while off duty to help reduce infections. On August 13th, TSA hosted a virtual Industry Day to help drive private sector innovations such as touchless technologies for use at airport security checkpoints.

United States Coast Guard (USCG)

Monitoring Vessels that Pose a Risk to Public Health. As of August 11th, the USCG is tracking 59 cruise ships moored, at anchor, or underway in the vicinity of a U.S. port, or with potential to arrive in a US port, with approximately 12,532 crewmembers. This includes an estimated 204 American Citizens crewmembers dispersed among 35 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 the submission of a plan to the CDC.

Reservists. As of August 12th, the USCG has recalled and deployed 393 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.

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 August 13, as part of OSP, the agency has made 64 criminal arrests, analyzed 56,324 COVID-19 related domains, seized more than $7,875,915 million in illicit proceeds, disrupted 46 instances of illicit activity, sent 1,278 leads to domestic and international field offices, executed 85 search warrants and made 1,004 COVID-19-related seizures to include prohibited test kits and pharmaceuticals, counterfeit masks and more. COVID-19-related seizures include prohibited test kits and pharmaceuticals, counterfeit masks, and more.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Getting American Citizens Home Safe. As of August 8, 2020, CBP had referred 556,637 travelers at the 15 funneling airports to DHS CWMD for enhanced health screening. CBP also 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.

Additional Information

Last Published Date: August 27, 2020
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