TSA Administrator Pekoske at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, July 14. TSA photo.

Weekly Update: DHS Response to COVID-19

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) continues its work to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. Below is a list of some of DHS’s efforts against COVID-19 last week:

United States Coast Guard (USCG)

As of July 18, the USCG is tracking 67 cruise ships moored, at anchor, or underway in vicinity of a U.S. port, or with potential to arrive in a US port, with 14,382 crewmembers. This includes an estimated 244 American Citizens crewmembers dispersed among 37 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.

On July 15, the Coast Guard formalized its Contact Tracing Program, in order to keep its workforce and families safe. 

Capt. Alexander Foos, Chief, Office of Reserve Policy and Requirements Integration (CG-R5) said the USCG has recalled and deployed 342 reservists since the beginning of the pandemic. “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.”

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)

On July 16, CISA along with the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Center, Canada’s Communications Security Establishment, and the National Security Agency, released a Joint Cybersecurity Advisory to expose malicious cyber actors using a variety of tools and techniques to target organizations involved in COVID-19 research and vaccine development. Since the onset of the COVID pandemic, CISA alongside government and industry partners across the globe, have been on the watch – identifying threats, helping organizations protect themselves, and responding to any incidents. For the specific malware tools mentioned in the advisory, the malwares are identified to be used by various advanced persistent threat groups and CISA released analysis reports to help network defenders identify, mitigate and protect against these threats.  

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

FEMA continues to lead the operational coordination for the federal interagency response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of July 20, there are 2,275 FEMA personnel, 26,449 DoD and National Guard personnel and 406 HHS personnel deployed across the country to support state, local, tribal and territorial COVID-19 response efforts. 

As of July 17, FEMA and HHS have obligated $135.9 billion in support of COVID-19 efforts. As of July 15, FEMA and HHS have coordinated the delivery of 103.1 million N95 respirators, 159.3 million surgical masks, 17.2 million face shields, 139.4 million gloves, 68.4 million surgical gowns and 6.1 million coveralls.

FEMA continues to source and procure testing material – specifically, testing swabs and transport media – to support the White House Coronavirus Task Force and the Administration’s Testing Blueprint. As of July 19, FEMA has procured and delivered more than 41 million swabs and 32.1 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.

As of July 18, FEMA has shipped 29,191 packages of medical supplies to nursing homes in 53 states and territories. FEMA coordinated 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.

As of July 19, 25,405 National Guard troops have activated in T-32 duty status and 312 troops have activated in State Active Duty status to help with testing and other response efforts. To date, President Trump has approved 50 National Guard requests for federal support for the use of National Guard personnel in a Title 32 duty status through August 21. 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 of National Guard personnel serving in a Title 32 duty status in fulfillment of the FEMA mission assignment.  

Office of Operations Coordination (OPS) 

OPS continues to lead efforts to ensure that the Department implements strategies and capabilities to ensure continuity of operations during the COVID-19 pandemic and capture strategic lessons learned for future planning. On July 16, OPS held a working group to  advance the Department’s planning efforts and communications capabilities to ensure the continuation of critical DHS operations to protect the security and health of the American people in response to any increased impact from COVID-19 or other threats/hazards.

Science and Technology (S&T)

On July 17, 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 references to an observational study, reported in Clinical Infectious Disease, that within the U.S., each day of delay in emergency declarations and school closures was associated with a 5 to 6 percent increase in mortality, and a modeling study suggests that healthcare workers are primarily at risk from droplet and inhalation exposure, with greater risk while in closer proximity to patients. Additionally, a study conducted by USARMRIID and published in medRxiv, indicated that at room temperature (71.6°F), SARS-CoV-2 remains detectable on currency for up to 24 hours, on clothing for up to 4 hours, and on skin for up to 96 hours. Persistence is reduced with warmer temperatures (98.6°F), and enhanced at colder temperatures (39.2°F).

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) 

Between July 12 and July 18, TSA screened more than 4,655,279 passengers, who have all reached their destinations safely. TSA officers are required to wear facial protection and gloves while on duty at the checkpoint and the agency continues to follow CDC guidance.

On July 14, TSA Administrator Pekoske visited Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina to thank TSA employees for their hard work and dedication during the pandemic.  He also spotlighted the agency’s “Stay Healthy. Stay Secure” campaign which outlines significant airport checkpoint modifications implemented to contain the spread of COVID-19, comply with CDC guidelines, and support healthy and secure summer travel.

United States Secret Service (USSS)

The U.S Secret Service continues to expose fraudulent activity related to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and remains committed to combating COVID-19 unemployment fraud. On July 9, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana announced the arrest and charges of a mother and daughter for COVID-19 related unemployment fraud.  This case was the result of an investigation by the United States Secret Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Ft. Branch, Indiana Police Department. 

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

ICE’s Operation Stolen Promise (OSP) targets fraudulent activity stemming from the pandemic. As of July 16, as part of OSP, the agency has made 51 criminal arrests, analyzed 50,429 COVID-19-related domains, seized more than $6.9 million in illicit proceeds, disrupted 42 instances of illicit activity, sent 1,182 leads to domestic and international field offices, executed 70 search warrants and made 881 COVID-19-related seizures to include prohibited test kits and pharmaceuticals, counterfeit masks and more.COVID-19-related seizures to include prohibited test kits and pharmaceuticals, counterfeit masks and more.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

CBP continues to collaborate on a daily basis with the Department of State (DOS) to facilitate the safe travel of American citizens currently abroad to return home. CBP also works closely with DOS and foreign consulates to review 212(f) National Interest Waiver requests. This week, CBP coordinated with an air ambulance service for the repatriation of a U.S. Citizen and her Guatemalan husband (a COVID-19 positive patient) who was traveling to the U.S. for medical care. The flight from Guatemala City, Guatemala to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport arrived on July 13.

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The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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