Last month, we reached an anniversary that none of us wants to celebrate: the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s been over a year since the vast majority of the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) workforce, along with millions of Americans, packed up their desks and set up home offices. It’s been a year since our frontline and essential workers rolled up their sleeves and continued to keep our country running despite the danger. And for so many of us, it’s been a year since we’ve browsed the produce aisle without a facemask, gone to happy hour, or hugged a friend.
But I can also tell you about some things we definitely have been doing this past year. We’ve extensively studied how SARS-CoV-2 spreads and what disinfectants are most effective. We’ve partnered with private industry, federal agencies, and scientists around the world to pool our resources and share knowledge. We’ve found ways to make the public safer through science and technology. And we’re not letting up until this battle is won. Our new report, “Battling the Invisible Enemy Volume II: One Year Later” details the incredible work being done to defeat our shared enemy. As I state in my letter at the beginning of the report:
This pandemic has tested all of us in numerous ways, but our nation – and those around the world – has emerged more determined than ever to vanquish this common foe. We have discovered what it really means to come together across not only the federal government, but also across borders both foreign and domestic. We have gained new insights into the complex dynamics of a pandemic and the many moving parts needed to evolve our infrastructure to accommodate the “new normal.” We have seen firsthand the critical importance of information-sharing and collaboration. We have developed a greater appreciation for the bravery of essential workers, the tenacity of scientists, and the previous gift of not having to be “socially distant.” While we are all eager to leave this tumultuous time far in our collective rearview mirror, we must remember everything we have learned so we can be ready for whatever the future holds.
Response and recovery are a life-and-death balancing act, and it takes great fortitude to make hard decisions and work around the clock to save lives. Incredible things can be accomplished through funding, partnership, determination, and creative thinking, though, and we will need more of it to continue this fight.
Both volumes of our Battling the Invisible Enemy reports serve as anthologies of the important work S&T has contributed to the nation during this tumultuous time. We’ve all been learning as we go—as we haven’t seen anything quite like COVID-19 in our lifetimes—though S&T did have a breadth of previous bioagent research to give us a running start. While Volume I spoke to our research and development efforts from day one, Volume II highlights efforts through day 365 and beyond. It touts our scientific studies and their corresponding conclusions, recounts multifaceted support given without hesitation to fellow DHS components and other key partners, and it looks ahead to what’s next for the response so we can all finally put this pandemic behind us. I’m incredibly proud of the way so many people have stepped up and risen to this challenge. I’m confident that we will see this battle through to the other side and win the war against COVID-19.
For more detailed information about S&T’s COVID-19 response, visit https://www.dhs.gov/science-and-technology/st-support-covid-19-response.