The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has risen to the new challenges presented by COVID-19 and continues to lead the national response to mitigate the spread. Thanks to our workforce’s efforts across its components last week, DHS has facilitated a speedy, whole-of-government response to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. As the nation transitions to a phased approach of reopening the economy the Department and its components continue to prove its resiliency in the face of adversity to ensure a safe, secure, and prosperous Homeland for the American people.
“Earlier this month, USCIS began to reopen offices to the public and resume in-person services such as interviews and naturalization ceremonies. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the men and women of USCIS have exhibited professionalism, resilience, and an unwavering commitment to our mission of administering our nation’s lawful immigration system,” said USCIS Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow. “Over the past week, I’ve had the privilege to welcome and administer the oath to new U.S. citizens at ceremonies in Baltimore, MD and Fairfax, VA. Taking the Oath of Allegiance and embracing U.S. citizenship is a remarkable act of patriotism, and we are a stronger nation today because of naturalized citizens.”
Below is a list of some of DHS’s efforts against COVID-19 last week:
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
Continuing to Expand In-Person Services Nationwide and Welcome New U.S. Citizens. On June 4, USCIS began to reopen offices to the public and resume in-person services, such as naturalization ceremonies and interviews. Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow administered the oath to new U.S. citizens at the Washington Field Office on June 11 and at the Baltimore Field Office on June 4. Rescheduling naturalization ceremonies for those who had their ceremony postponed due to the temporary suspension of in-person services is a top priority for USCIS.
Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)
Providing Cyber Resources to Public Safety Communications Partners During the Pandemic. On June 8th, CISA released the Telephony Denial of Service (TDoS) Factsheet on the SAFECOM 911 resources page in response to an uptick in TDoS events since the COVID-19 pandemic. TDoS events occur when a large volume of telephone calls overloads a communications network element—overwhelming call capacity and disrupting communications. Congestion may occur in any part of a communications network, from the telecommunications provider infrastructure to end-user equipment. This fact sheet familiarizes public safety communications partners with TDoS threats to 911. The document overviews common TDoS attack vectors, highlights real-world TDoS incidents, and suggests best practices to mitigate TDoS impacts in times of emergency.
Keeping Public Communication Partners Safe. On June 11th, CISA released the PSAP Ransomware Poster which provides Public Safety Answering Points and Emergency Communication Centers responding to the COVID-19 pandemic with information to reduce the risk of falling victim to ransomware. While the poster’s focus is ransomware, the suggestions and recommendations are applicable across a wide range of cyber threats. The poster also provides awareness information on phishing, social engineering, and password management; as well as information on what to do if a system is compromised and associated contact information for state and federal authorities. CISA encourages COVID-19 response organizations to review and apply the poster’s recommendations to protect their systems.
Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD)
Enhanced Screenings at Airports. CWMD contract personnel are continuing to support the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with enhanced screenings for travelers through 15 specially designated airports. As of June 13, CWMD has processed more than 344,452 travelers for enhanced screening, including 1,534 who were referred to CDC for further medical evaluation.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
FEMA Continues Deliveries of Needed Medical Supplies. As of June 15, FEMA has made 14,965 deliveries of medical supplies to nursing homes in all 56 states and territories. FEMA is coordinating two shipments totaling a 14-day supply of personal protective equipment to all 15,400 Medicaid and Medicare-certified nursing homes. The shipments will supplement existing efforts to provide equipment to nursing homes.
FEMA Continues Deliveries of Needed Medical Supplies. As of June 12, FEMA, HHS, and Project Airbridge combined have coordinated the delivery of, or are currently shipping: 95.8 million N-95 respirators, 149.3 million surgical masks, 14.3 million face shields, 47 million surgical gowns and over 1 billion gloves.
FEMA Assists in Administration’s COVID-19 Testing Strategy. To support the Administration’s Testing Blueprint, FEMA continues to source and procure testing material – specifically, testing swabs and transport media. As of June 12, FEMA has procured and delivered 22.4 million swabs and 16.3 million units of media. The FEMA-sourced material will be provided to states, territories, and tribes for a limited duration to help increase testing capacity in support of their individualized plans.
Office of Operations Coordination (OPS)
Supporting DHS Information Sharing. On June 9th, the Department convened an Operations Deputies Board (OPS DEPS) consisting of DHS senior operational leaders. The OPSDEPS was convened to continue coordination on the Department’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The OPSDEPS received operational updates on COVID-19 from the Crisis Action Team and reviewed the Department’s return to the workplace plan for DHS Headquarters personnel.
Science and Technology (S&T)
Using Data to Protect First Responders, Care Providers and the General Public. On June 12th, S&T released a new predictive modeling tool to estimate the decay of airborne SARS-CoV-2, (the virus that causes COVID-19), across a range of temperature, relative humidity, and sunlight levels (UV Index). The model has been integrated into a web-based application, which allows users to estimate time needed for decay of SARS-CoV-2 under combinations of these environmental conditions. This is the second tool leveraging the results of ongoing research from S&T’s National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC), and is designed to assist response efforts and estimate the persistence of the virus under certain environmental conditions. The information may guide best practices for responders, medical care providers and individuals to reduce potential for contamination.
Driving Evidence-Based Policymaking. On June 9th, Science and Technology updated its Master Question List (MQL), a compilation of 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 references to studies of autopsied lung tissue that support aspiration as a mechanism for transportation of SARS-CoV-2 to the deep lung. Additional recent evidence suggests the virus attacks blood vessels in the lung, leading to clotting complications and ARDS. It is also notable that a number of initiatives have planned or begun production of COVID-19 vaccines, with the goal of producing hundreds of millions of doses by 2021, though only those with safe and effective trial results will be administered to humans.
Delivering Actionable Information Through Applied Research. On June 12th, S&T National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) published a new study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases “Airborne SARS-CoV-2 is Rapidly Inactivating by Simulated Sunlight”. Aerosols represent a potential route of transmission of SARS-CoV-2, where this study examined the effect of simulated sunlight, relative humidity, and suspension matrix on the stability of SARS-CoV-2. This research provides the first evidence that sunlight may rapidly inactivate SARS-CoV-2 on surfaces. Findings in this research inform our understanding of the virus and help shape the operational response to COVID-19.
Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
Keeping Americans Safe While Ensuring Continuity of U.S. Travel and Commerce. Between June 7th and June 13th, TSA screened more than 3,055,652 passengers, who have all reached their destinations safely. TSA officers are required to wear facial protection while on duty at the checkpoint and the agency continues to follow CDC guidance to protect Americans, its workers, and the nation’s transportation system, in support of air travel and all other modes of transportation.
Ready to Ensure Safety During the Summer Travel Period. Between June 7th and June 13th, the agency also produced new airport signage to help travelers navigate the new normal at airport checkpoints nationwide. In an effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, travelers should expect to see changes at airport screening checkpoints including the ability to place their boarding pass directly on the travel document reader and social distancing while in the screening lines.
United States Coast Guard (USCG)
Monitoring Vessels that Pose a Risk to Public Health. The Coast Guard continues to monitor the presence of multiple ships anchored in U.S. territorial waters to ensure they observe the 14-day minimum wait time required by Presidents Trump’s EO before docking at a U.S. port to help reduce the spread of foreign originating COVID-19. As of June 8th, the Coast Guard is tracking more than 67 cruise ships anchored, moored, or underway in U.S. waters, carrying approximately 32,128 crew members from various countries.
United States Secret Service (USSS)
Keeping The American Public Safe From Of COVID Related Scams. On June 10, the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri announced a federal indictment for COVID-19 related fraud case which involved forged prescriptions for anti-malarial drugs. The United Secret Service was part of the local taskforce that assisted in investigating.
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 June 12, as part of OSP, the agency has made 25 criminal arrests, analyzed 41,107 COVID-19-related domains, seized more than $ 5,030,283 million in illicit proceeds, disrupted 36 instances of illicit activity, sent 1,030 leads to domestic and international field offices, executed 47 search warrants and made 741 COVID-19-related seizures to include prohibited test kits and pharmaceuticals, counterfeit masks and more.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
Seizing Counterfeit Goods to Keep The Country Safe. On June 12th, CBP officers assigned to the Port of Birmingham discovered nearly 500 unregistered non-contact and infrared thermometers originating in Malaysia and China. CBP remains vigilant, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Keeping these types of unregulated medical devices out of the United States is a top priority for CBP. So far this calendar year, CBP has seized more than 107,000 illegitimates COVID-19 test kits, more than 11,000 doses of FDA-prohibited chloroquine, and more than 750,00 counterfeit masks.
Getting American Citizens Home Safe. As of June 11, 2020, CBP has referred 336,984 travelers at the 15 funneling airports to DHS CWMD for enhanced health screening.