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Weekly Update: DHS Response to COVID-19

Release Date: 
October 16, 2020

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its component offices have stood ready to assist communities across the nation facing unforeseen challenges amid a pandemic environment.

Admiral Karl Schultz, Commandant of the Coast Guard, stated, “The Coast Guard is working closely with all state and local first responders and federal partners in response to Hurricane Delta. This is the sixth major storm to impact the Gulf coast during this year’s historic hurricane season. As with previous storms, the Coast Guard had assets pre-staged throughout the region to be ready to immediately respond where needed. Amidst the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, Coast Guard women and men across the country and around the world remain Semper Paratus.”

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA)

Continuing to Secure the Election Process. On October 7th, CISA released the Election Infographic Products, a set of infographics products that identify changes in mail-in voting this year as a result of COVID voting policies. The series includes three infographics and two maps designed to combat disinformation by equipping election officials, stakeholders, and voters with information on the mail-in voting, post-election, and election results processes, and the security measures that were implemented to safeguard the 2020 election season and increase the resilience of the American electorate. 

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 October 9th, Administrator Gaynor has approved 49 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands and the District of Columbia 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 October 9th, FEMA has awarded more than $42.3 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 October 8th, 16,267 National Guard troops have activated in T-32 duty status and 432 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 ofNational Guard personnel serving in a Title 32 duty status in fulfillment of the FEMA mission assignment.

Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC)

Graduating the Next Generation of Law Enforcement. FLETC continues to successfully implement testing, identification, isolation and containment protocols in managing the COVID-19 virus. As of October 9, nearly 3,700 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 17. There are currently 2,159 students attending in-residence training at Glynco, Charleston, and Artesia training delivery points, with an additional 97 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. In addition, more than 7,100 officers and agents from federal, state, local, and tribal have taken part in FLETC online training, including nearly 4,200 participants for the Integrated Use of Force series.

Science and Technology (S&T)

Driving Evidence-Based Policymaking. On October 7, 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:

Cross-reactivity from seasonal coronaviruses enhances the immune response toward the S2 unit of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein.

  • Nguyen-Contant, P.; Embong, A. K.; Kanagaiah, P.; Chaves, F. A.; Yang, H.; Branche, A. R.; Topham, D. J.; Sangster, M. Y., S Protein-Reactive IgG and Memory B Cell Production after Human SARS-CoV-2 Infection Includes Broad Reactivity to the S2 Subunit. mBio 2020, 11 (5), e01991-20. https://mbio.asm.org/content/mbio/11/5/e01991-20.full.pdf

India has approved a rapid CRISPR-based test paper capable of generating results with 96% sensitivity and 98% specificity within an hour of nasopharyngeal swab.

Regular disinfection of hospital rooms (with benzalkonium wipes) can reduce the presence of SARS-CoV-2 on surfaces, though contamination is widespread without regular cleaning.

  • Kim, U. J.; Lee, S. Y.; Lee, J. Y.; Lee, A.; Kim, S. E.; Choi, O.-J.; Lee, J. S.; Kee, S.-J.; Jang, H.-C., Air and Environmental Contamination Caused by COVID-19 Patients: a Multi-Center Study. J Korean Med Sci 2020, 35 (37). https://doi.org/10.3346/jkms.2020.35.e332

Methylene blue (in combination with visible light) is being investigated for decontamination of N95 respirators.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

Keeping Americans Safe While Ensuring Continuity of U.S. Travel and Commerce. Between Oct. 4th through Oct. 10th, TSA screened more than 5.7 million 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. TSA announced the implementation of new credential authentication technology (CAT) at Albany International Airport on Oct. 5 and at Billings International Airport on Oct. 8 that allows the TSA screening officer to verify the traveler’s identity with little to no physical contact with the airline traveler. On Oct 6, TSA announced new 3D checkpoint scanner technology at Long Island’s MacArthur Airport.  The 3-D imagery allows TSA officers to manipulate the image on screen to get a better view of a bag’s contents and often clear items without having to open a carry-on bag, thereby reducing physical contact. On Oct 7, TSA announced new acrylic barriers deployments throughout various checkpoint areas at Philadelphia International Airport to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

United States Coast Guard (USCG)

Monitoring Vessels that Pose a Risk to Public Health. As of October 8th, the USCG is tracking 61 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 9,296 crewmembers. This includes an estimated 184 American Citizens crewmembers dispersed among 31 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 October 10th, the USCG has recalled and deployed 442 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 October 7, as part of OSP, the agency has made 135 criminal arrests, analyzed 65,573 COVID-19-related domains, seized more than $12,004,505 million in illicit proceeds, disrupted 51 instances of illicit activity, sent 1,392 leads to domestic and international field offices, executed 126 search warrants and made 1,437 COVID-19-related seizures to include prohibited test kits and pharmaceuticals, counterfeit masks and more.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Protecting American Businesses. Last week, CBP announced the seizure of nearly 60,000 counterfeit facemasks by the Baltimore Field Office that violated trademarks of numerous U.S. consumer brands.

Additional Information

Last Published Date: October 21, 2020
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