The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) continues to work with partners across both public and private sectors to execute the Whole of America response to COVID-19 and ensure the challenges we face during these unprecedented times are met. Our partners at the DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) have worked diligently with our private sector partners to find creative solutions to those challenges, while carrying out the mission of DHS to secure our homeland.
“When it comes to security and safety issues, the government doesn’t always have all the answers, which is why S&T works with the private sector to find technology solutions to the nation’s toughest challenges,” said William N. Bryan, DHS Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science & Technology. “S&T’s Silicon Valley Innovation Program has reached out to the innovation community seeking technologies that can help DHS and the nation in this battle against COVID-19. We are seeking solutions to ensure the security of data in contact-tracing apps, automatic disinfection of surfaces, and tools to deconflict available information about the virus. Our National Urban Security Technology Laboratory in New York is conducting a market study on non-invasive febrile temperature screening technologies for the responder communities. Meanwhile, our studies are continuing at the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center to characterize and learn as much about the deadly virus as possible, so that efforts to combat this disease are effective in protecting people, not only across the nation, but around the world.”
Below is a list of some of DHS’s efforts against COVID-19 last week:
Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)
Expanding Essential Workers Guidance. On August 18th, CISA released an update to its Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers Guidance. The updated guidance reflects the changing landscape of the nation’s COVID-19 response. While earlier versions were primarily intended to help officials and organizations identify essential work functions in order to allow them access to their workplaces during times of community restrictions, Version 4.0 identifies those essential workers that require specialized risk management strategies to ensure that they can work safely. The guidance also identifies workers who conduct a range of operations and services that are typically essential to continued critical infrastructure viability, including staffing operations centers, maintaining and repairing critical infrastructure, operating call centers, working construction, and performing operational functions, among others. It includes workers who support crucial supply chains and enable functions for critical infrastructure. Additionally, the list now includes workers who teach and support our children either in-person or through virtual learning. The guidance does not make judgment on whether schools should re-open, as those decisions are in the purview of state and local officials.
Continued Support in Federal Response. On August 18th, in support of Emergency Support Function #14, CISA hosted a Cross-Sector Business and Infrastructure stakeholder conference call to discuss CISA’s response efforts in support of COVID-19 and share recent cybersecurity alerts.
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. As of August 22nd, Administrator Gaynor has approved 23 states for FEMA grants under this unprecedented program. FEMA’s grant funding will allow the approved states to provide those unemployed due to COVID-19 $300 or 400 per week on top of their regular unemployment benefit. As of August 22nd, FEMA has obligated $9.7 Billion in support of Lost Wages supplemental assistance. All approved grant applicants receive an initial obligation of three weeks of funding, with additional disbursements made on a weekly basis.
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 21st, 18,594 National Guard troops have activated in T-32 duty status and 276 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 21st, there are over 23,110 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)
Successful Training of Agents. As of August 21st, more than 2,100 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 2,016 students attending in-residence training at Glynco, Charleston, and Artesia training delivery points. There are an additional 121 students attending training at the Cheltenham training delivery point. 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 18, 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 in Archives of Disease in Childhood stated that during a period of social distancing and contact tracing in South Korea, rates of transmission from children to other family members were low.
- An article in Frontiers in Public Health stated COVID-19 generally begins with fever, then cough and malaise, with gastrointestinal symptoms developing later.
- The US Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for a saliva-based diagnostic assay. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-issues-emergency-use-authorization-yale-school-public-health
- The US Center for Disease Control advised that recovered patients need not be tested for SARS-COV-2 again within 3 months of recovery unless symptoms re-develop; this advice does not imply protection from re-infection in recovered patients. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2020/s0814-updated-isolation-guidance.html [Link no longer valid]
Mobilizing the Innovation Community. On August 18th, the DHS Science and Technology Directorate Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP) conducted a virtual industry day for innovative technology developers interested in submitting proposals for the Emerging Needs: COVID-19 Response & Future Mitigation Topic Call. The solicitation calls for technologies to address near-term needs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Potential solutions discovered from the 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 were more than 500 participants on the virtual industry day. Deadline for submitting proposals is September 30, 2020.
- Engaging Industry. On August 19th, the DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) issued a press release to remind technology vendors, manufacturers, and distributors of the August 31 deadline to submit their interest to the request for information for non-invasive febrile temperature screening. The technologies will be included in a market study conducted by S&T’s National Urban Security Technology Laboratory (NUSTL) to meet the needs of first responders and protective services as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
Keeping Americans Safe While Ensuring Continuity of U.S. Travel and Commerce. Between August 16th and August 22nd, TSA screened more than 4,951,602 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, and promote healthy and secure summer travel.
Ready to Ensure Safety During the Summer Travel Period. On August 18th, TSA Administrator Pekoske participated in the Homeland Security Advisory Committee meeting to provide an update on TSA efforts in response to COVID-19. The HSAC is a group of experts who provide DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf independent advice to support decision-making across the spectrum of homeland security operations. On August 19th, TSA Administrator Pekoske visited Chicago O’Hare 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. TSA also deployed new acrylic barriers at Charlotte Douglas International Airport as part of its ongoing efforts to implement touchless technology in response to COVID-19.
United States Coast Guard (USCG)
Monitoring Vessels that Pose a Risk to Public Health. As of August 20th, the USCG is tracking 59 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 10,920 crewmembers. This includes an estimated 222 American Citizens crewmembers dispersed among 33 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. As of August 21st, the USCG has recalled and deployed 406 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 20, as part of OSP, the agency has made 64 criminal arrests, analyzed 58,124 COVID-19-related domains, seized more than $7,912,215 million in illicit proceeds, disrupted 46 instances of illicit activity, sent 1,298 leads to domestic and international field offices, executed 85 search warrants, and made 1,039 COVID-19-related seizures to include prohibited test kits and pharmaceuticals, counterfeit masks, and more.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
Protecting U.S. Consumers. On August 17, CBP’s Seattle Field Office announced the seizure of eight separate shipments of unauthorized influenza treatments being marketed to treat COVID-19. The seizures came from both express consignment shipments as well as passengers at the airport and totaled 2,376 pills.
Getting American Citizens Home Safe. As of August 23, 2020, CBP had referred 644,872 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.