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Weekly Update: DHS Response to COVID-19

Release Date: 
September 10, 2020

As communities across America continue to re-open with COVID-19 safeguards and prevention measures in place, the Department remains focused on ensuring communities are protected from fraudulent COVID-19 products and from individuals who seek to exploit the system.

“Operation Stolen Promise continues to show tremendous results in its ongoing efforts to protect the American people from fraudulent coronavirus related products,” said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Director Tony H. Pham. “ICE is and will continue to be relentless in the pursuit to identify and bring to justice those who would take advantage of this unprecedented pandemic for personal financial gain.”

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 September 8th, Administrator Gaynor has approved 47 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 September 8th, FEMA has obligated $28.8 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 September 8th, 16,478 National Guard troops have activated in T-32 duty status and 242 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 September 8th, there are over 20,528 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.

Science and Technology (S&T)

Driving Evidence-Based Policymaking. On September 1, 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:

  • A study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases estimated that when a person breathes out, they will expel between 100,000 and 10,000,000 copies of the molecule that encodes for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, per person, per hour. Note: the presence of this molecule does not necessarily correlate with infectious virus. https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciaa1283
     
  • Two additional references this week in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report and Nature Medicine estimated lower transmission rates in children, but each study was conducted during a period of low community transmission and/or school closures, which may underestimate the transmission risk. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6934e2.htm?s_cid=mm6934e2_w
     
  • The first US patient with a reinfection of COVID-19 was reported in The Lancet. Unlike another patient in Hong Kong, this patient had mild illness the first time and severe symptoms the second time. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3681489
     
  • Studies in the Journal of Infection and Nature showed differences in the immune responses of males and females to COVID-19, potentially giving insight into why men show more severe disease. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jinf.2020.08.032 / https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2700-3

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

Keeping Americans Safe While Ensuring Continuity of U.S. Travel and Commerce. Between August 30th and September 5th, TSA screened more than 5,124,083 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, including new technologies that reduce or eliminate physical contact, 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 September 1, TSA Administrator Pekoske visited Newark Liberty International Airport where he toured the checkpoint modifications implemented as a result of COVID-19 and held a virtual town hall with the TSA workforce. On September 1, TSA announced a pilot at Reagan National Airport using credential authentication technology with camera (CAT-C) that automatically matches a traveler’s picture taken to the photo on their ID. The technology also further minimizes physical contact between the TSA officer and the traveler. On September 3, TSA issued a press release outlining 7 easy steps airline travelers can take to efficiently and quickly get through the TSA screening checkpoint during the holiday travel weekend while adhering to new checkpoint changes as a result of COVID-19.

United States Coast Guard (USCG)

Monitoring Vessels that Pose a Risk to Public Health. As of September 2nd, the USCG is tracking 58 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 10,277 crewmembers. This includes an estimated 200 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 September 4th, the USCG has recalled and deployed 419 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 September 8, as part of OSP, the agency has made 83 criminal arrests, analyzed 61,424 COVID-19-related domains, seized more than $10,045,590 million in illicit proceeds, disrupted 48 instances of illicit activity, sent 1,339 leads to domestic and international field offices, executed 97 search warrants and made 1,117 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.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Getting American Citizens Home Safe. As of September 3, 2020, CBP had referred 726,069 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: September 11, 2020
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