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Weekly Update: DHS Response to COVID-19

Release Date: 
November 2, 2020

Throughout the pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has stood ready to assist communities across the nation in the fight against COVID-19.

“Under the guidance of President Trump and this Administration, the Department of Homeland Security has taken unprecedented action to fight COVID-19,” said Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli. “There is no doubt that the COVID-19 related measures the Department undertook, especially at our southern border, continues to save American lives. DHS stands ready to assist and address unforeseen challenges that come our way, and we remain committed to protecting the safety and security of the American public.”

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 23, nearly 4,000 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 17. There are currently 2,402 students attending in-residence training at Glynco, Charleston, and Artesia training delivery points, with an additional 71 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 28, 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:

  • There is some evidence that asymptomatic individuals transmit SARS-CoV-2 less often than symptomatic individuals, and asymptomatic children may have substantially lower levels of virus in their upper respiratory tracts than symptomatic children.
    • Kociolek, L. K.; Muller, W. J.; Yee, R.; Dien Bard, J.; Brown, C. A.; Revell, P.; Wardell, H.; Savage, T. J.; Jung, S.; Dominguez, S.; Parikh, B. A.; Jerris, R. C.; Kehl, S. C.; Campigotto, A.; Bender, J. M.; Zheng, X.; Muscat, E.; Linam, M.; Abuogi, L.; Smith, C.; Graff, K.; Hernandez-Leyva, A.; Williams, D.; Pollock, N. R., Comparison of upper respiratory viral load distributions in asymptomatic and symptomatic children diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 infection in pediatric hospital testing programs. Journal of Clinical Microbiology 2020, JCM.02593-20. https://jcm.asm.org/content/jcm/early/2020/10/22/JCM.02593-20.full.pdf
  • In a large Chinese case series (n=1,407), superspreading events were less common (k=0.7) drivers of transmission.
    • He, D.; Zhao, S.; Xu, X.; Lin, Q.; Zhuang, Z.; Cao, P.; Wang, M. H.; Lou, Y.; Xiao, L.; Wu, Y.; Yang, L., Low dispersion in the infectiousness of COVID-19 cases implies difficulty in control. BMC Public Health 2020, 20 (1), 1558. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-020-09624-2
  • Patients being released from the hospital may still exhale detectable levels of SARS-CoV-2 RNA (~7,000 genome copies per hour), though the infectivity of these patients is unknown.
    • Zhou, L.; Yao, M.; Zhang, X.; Hu, B.; Li, X.; Chen, H.; Zhang, L.; Liu, Y.; Du, M.; Sun, B.; Jiang, Y.; Zhou, K.; Hong, J.; Yu, N.; Ding, Z.; Xu, Y.; Hu, M.; Morawska, L.; Grinshpun, S. A.; Biswas, P.; Flagan, R. C.; Zhu, B.; Liu, W.; Zhang, Y., Breath-, air- and surface-borne SARS-CoV-2 in hospitals. Journal of Aerosol Science 2020, 105693. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0021850220301786
  • Exhaled breath condensate may be an effective supplement to nasopharyngeal swab-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR).
    • Ryan, D. J.; Toomey, S.; Madden, S. F.; Casey, M.; Breathnach, O. S.; Morris, P. G.; Grogan, L.; Branagan, P.; Costello, R. W.; De Barra, E.; Hurley, K.; Gunaratnam, C.; McElvaney, N. G.; OBrien, M. E.; Sulaiman, I.; Morgan, R. K.; Hennessy, B. T., Use of exhaled breath condensate (EBC) in the diagnosis of SARS-COV-2 (COVID-19). Thorax 2020, thoraxjnl-2020-215705. https://thorax.bmj.com/content/thoraxjnl/early/2020/10/23/thoraxjnl-2020-215705.full.pdf
  • Reductions in transmission are generally visible 6-9 days after the implementation of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), and increased transmission is generally visible 14-20 days after NPIs are lifted.
    • Li, Y.; Campbell, H.; Kulkarni, D.; Harpur, A.; Nundy, M.; Wang, X.; Nair, H., The temporal association of introducing and lifting non-pharmaceutical interventions with the time-varying reproduction number (R) of SARS-CoV-2: a modelling study across 131 countries. The Lancet Infectious Diseases 2020. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(20)30785-4
  • SARS-CoV-2 RNA can be detected on leather and synthetic leather products for at least 8 days.
  • It appears that pollen or air particulates are not carriers of SARS-CoV-2, despite some country-level associations.
  • Experiments with mannequins show that face masks reduce potential spread of SARS-CoV-2 when worn by an infectious individual, but also that face masks by non-infected recipients can reduce the number of inhaled particles; the protective effect was maximized when both infected and uninfected individuals (mannequins) wore masks.
  • Researchers have identified a number of human proteins associated with COVID-19 severity, which could be used as a screening tool for designing appropriate treatment regimens.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

Keeping Americans Safe While Ensuring Continuity of U.S. Travel and Commerce. Between Oct. 18th through Oct. 24th, TSA screened more than 5.9 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 ongoing deployments of various technologies at airports nationwide to contain the spread of COVID-19. Those efforts included 3D computed tomography (CT) equipment at Bishop International Airport and Pittsburgh International Airport, as well as acrylic barriers installed at John F. Kennedy International Airport and new credential authentication technology equipment at Atlantic City International Airport.

United States Coast Guard (USCG)

Monitoring Vessels that Pose a Risk to Public Health. As of October 23rd, the USCG is tracking 62 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 9,736 crewmembers. This includes an estimated 190 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 October 23rd, the USCG has recalled and deployed 453 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 28, as part of OSP, the agency has made 166 criminal arrests, analyzed 68,343 COVID-19-related domains, seized more than $ 12,755,665 million in illicit proceeds, disrupted 51 instances of illicit activity, sent 1,432 leads to domestic and international field offices, executed 141 search warrants and made 1,598 COVID-19-related seizures to include prohibited test kits and pharmaceuticals, counterfeit masks and more.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

CBP Continues to Keep America Safe. From January 1 through October 19, CBP seized:

  • 386 seizures of FDA-prohibited COVID-19 test kits, with more than 177,000 test kits seized.
  • 389 seizures of counterfeit facemasks, with more than 13 million masks seized.
  • 118 seizures of EPA-prohibited anti-virus lanyards, with more than 36,000 seized.
  • 207 seizures of FDA-prohibited chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine tablets, with more than 35,000 seized.
  • 97 seizures of antibiotics, such as azithromycin, with more than 5,000 tablets seized.
  • 35 seizures of hand sanitizers, with nearly 300,000 items seized
Last Published Date: November 3, 2020
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