You are here

Weekly Update: DHS Response to COVID-19

Release Date: 
October 26, 2020

For months, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has worked side by side with state, local, and private sector partners to ensure a safe and effective response to COVID-19 across its component offices.

“TSA has been diligent in our efforts to ensure checkpoints are clean, safe and healthy for frontline workers and airline passengers, implementing new protocols and deploying state-of-the-art technologies that improve security and reduce physical contact,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske.

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA)

Providing Resources to Election Partners. On October 14th, CISA published the Assisting Sick, Exposed, Symptomatic, and Quarantined Voters guidance which provides measures for election officials to consider to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 during the November elections. The document is part of a series produced by the Election Infrastructure Subsector’s GCC and SCC Joint COVID-19 Working Group.

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 16th, 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 16th, FEMA has awarded more than $42.4 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.

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 16, nearly 3,800 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 2,192 students attending in-residence training at Glynco, Charleston, and Artesia training delivery points, with an additional 99 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 7,200 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 14, 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:

  • Phylogenetics shows the importance of super-spreading events early in the COVID-19 outbreak.
    • Wang, L.; Didelot, X.; Yang, J.; Wong, G.; Shi, Y.; Liu, W.; Gao, G. F.; Bi, Y., Inference of person-to-person transmission of COVID-19 reveals hidden super-spreading events during the early outbreak phase. Nature Communications 2020, 11 (1), 5006. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-18836-4
  • A large meta-analysis estimates that children are 44% less susceptible to COVID-19 than adults, though modeling suggests that susceptibility does not differ substantially by age.
    • Omori, R.; Matsuyama, R.; Nakata, Y., The age distribution of mortality from novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) suggests no large difference of susceptibility by age. Scientific Reports 2020, 10 (1), 16642. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-73777-8
  • Approximately 25% of pregnant COVID-19 patients had symptoms for at least 8 weeks.
  • The antibody immunoglobulin M (IgM) appears to contribute substantially to SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing ability, with IgG also contributing to a lesser extent.
    • Gasser, R.; Cloutier, M.; Prévost, J.; Fink, C.; Ducas, É.; Ding, S.; Dussault, N.; Landry, P.; Tremblay, T.; Laforce-Lavoie, A.; Lewin, A.; Beaudoin-Bussières, G.; Laumaea, A.; Medjahed, H.; Larochelle, C.; Richard, J.; Dekaban, G. A.; Dikeakos, J. D.; Bazin, R.; Finzi, A., Major role of IgM in the neutralizing activity of convalescent plasma against SARS-CoV-2. bioRxiv 2020, 2020.10.09.333278. https://www.biorxiv.org/content/biorxiv/early/2020/10/09/2020.10.09.333278.full.pdf
  • Serum from patients exposed to seasonal coronaviruses did not neutralize SARS-CoV-2.
  • Both Eli Lilly and Regeneron have applied for Emergency Use Authorizations for their monoclonal antibody products.
  • The Johnson & Johnson Phase III trial was paused on 10/12/2020 due to a potential adverse event.
  • In the US, increasing SARS-CoV-2 prevalence in 18-24 year-old individuals precedes cases and hospitalizations in older adults; limiting transmission in younger populations is crucial for reducing hospitalizations and mortality.
    • Oster, A. M.; Caruso, E.; DeVies, J.; Hartnett, K. P.; Boehmer, T. K., Transmission Dynamics by Age Group in COVID-19 Hotspot Counties— United States, April–September 2020. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2020, ePub (9 October 2020). https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6941e1.htm
  • Premature relaxation of public health control measures may facilitate rapid increases in prevalence at the state level.217
    • Gallaway, M. S.; Rigler, J.; Robinson, S.; al., e., Trends in COVID-19 Incidence After Implementation of Mitigation Measures — Arizona, January 22–August 7, 2020. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2020, 2020 (69), 1460-1463.
  • In the absence of light, infectious SARS-CoV-2 can remain on non-porous (e.g., glass, vinyl) surfaces for at least 28 days at 20oC (68oF) and 50% relative humidity; higher temperatures greatly reduce the environmental stability of SARS-COV-2. This value is longer than other stability estimates, potentially due to a fluid matrix with more protein to simulate human respiratory fluid, a higher inoculation dose, and the absence of light.
    • Riddell, S.; Goldie, S.; Hill, A.; Eagles, D.; Drew, T. W., The effect of temperature on persistence of SARS-CoV-2 on common surfaces. Virology Journal 2020, 17 (1), 145. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12985-020-01418-7
  • Due to inefficiencies in end-to-end sampling techniques, it is estimated that at least 1,000 viral particles per RH are needed to detect SARS-CoV-2 RNA on surfaces.
    • Parker, C. W.; Singh, N.; Tighe, S.; Blachowicz, A.; Wood, J. M.; Seuylemezian, A.; Vaishampayan, P.; Urbaniak, C.; Hendrickson, R.; Laaguiby, P.; Clark, K.; Clement, B. G.; O’Hara, N. B.; Couto-Rodriguez, M.; Bezdan, D.; Mason, C. E.; Venkateswaran, K., End-to-End Protocol for the Detection of SARS-CoV-2 from Built Environments. mSystems 2020, 5 (5), e00771-20. https://msystems.asm.org/content/msys/5/5/e00771-20.full.pdf
  • There is no documented evidence that food, food packaging, or food handling is a significant source of COVID-19 infections, though several outbreaks have a hypothesized food origin.
    • Han, J.; Zhang, X.; He, S.; Jia, P., Can the coronavirus disease be transmitted from food? A review of evidence, risks, policies and knowledge gaps. Environmental Chemistry Letters 2020. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10311-020-01101-x
  • Indoor air filters based on non-thermal plasma or reactive oxygen species may be effective at reducing circulating SARS-CoV-2 concentrations, though additional testing is needed.
  • The D614G mutation increased viral loads in experimentally infected hamsters in the nose and throat, hastened transmission (evidence of spread between hamsters after 2 days for D614G mutants vs. 4 days for wild-type virus).
    • Hou, Y. J.; Chiba, S.; Halfmann, P.; Ehre, C.; Kuroda, M.; Dinnon, K. H.; Leist, S. R.; Schäfer, A.; Nakajima, N.; Takahashi, K.; Lee, R. E.; Mascenik, T. M.; Edwards, C. E.; Tse, L. V.; Boucher, R. C.; Randell, S. H.; Suzuki, T.; Gralinski, L. E.; Kawaoka, Y.; Baric, R. S., SARS-CoV-2 D614G Variant Exhibits Enhanced Replication and Earlier Transmission. bioRxiv 2020, 2020.09.28.317685. http://biorxiv.org/content/early/2020/09/29/2020.09.28.317685.abstract
  • Antibodies induced by the D614G mutation or wild type virus are able to neutralize each other.
    • Lee, C. Y.-P.; Amrun, S. N.; Chee, R. S.-L.; Goh, Y. S.; Mak, T.-M.; Octavia, S.; Yeo, N. K.-W.; Chang, Z. W.; Tay, M. Z.; Torres-Ruesta, A.; Carissimo, G.; Poh, C. M.; Fong, S.-W.; Bei, W.; Lee, S.; Young, B. E.; Tan, S.-Y.; Leo, Y.-S.; Lye, D. C.; Lin, R. T. P.; Maurer-Stroh, S.; Lee, B.; Cheng-I, W.; Renia, L.; Ng, L. F. P., Neutralizing antibodies from early cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection offer cross-protection against the SARS-CoV-2 D614G variant. bioRxiv 2020, 2020.10.08.332544. https://www.biorxiv.org/content/biorxiv/early/2020/10/09/2020.10.08.332544.full.pdf

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

Keeping Americans Safe While Ensuring Continuity of U.S. Travel and Commerce. Between Oct. 11th through Oct. 17th, TSA screened more than 6.1 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. On October 18, TSA announced that it had screened more than 1M passengers in a single day on Sunday, October 17 – the first time the agency surpassed the milestone since mid-March. Although passenger volumes remain well below pre-pandemic levels, the one million single-day passenger volume is a noteworthy development that follows significant TSA checkpoint modifications in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

United States Coast Guard (USCG)

Monitoring Vessels that Pose a Risk to Public Health. As of October 13th, the USCG is tracking 63 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 9,612 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 16th, the USCG has recalled and deployed 450 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. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

CBP Continues to Keep America Safe. From the beginning of the pandemic through September 28, CBP seized:

  • More than 177,000 FDA-prohibited test kits;
  • More than 12.7 million counterfeit masks;
  • Nearly 37,000 EPA-prohibited anti-virus lanyards;
  • Approximately 38,000 tablets of FDA-prohibited chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine.
  • More than 5,800 tablets of azithromycin and other antibiotics.

Additional Information

Last Published Date: October 27, 2020
Back to Top