DVIDS photo by Senior Master Sgt. Edward Snyder, South Carolina National Guard

Weekly Update: DHS Response to COVID-19

In this week’s COVID-19 response update, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) lists efforts from its components as the country battles to prevent further spread of the virus.

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)

Between July 28 and 30, CISA hosted the third annual Tabletop the Vote exercise, examining realistic scenarios that could impact voter confidence, voting operations, and the integrity of the elections. This year’s exercise included discussions of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on election processes and adjustments or new measures election officials have implemented to keep voters and poll workers safe.  Approximately 2,100 members of the election community participated over the course of three days.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

As of August 3, FEMA has obligated $8.8 billion in support of COVID-19 efforts, including funding for PPE, temporary medical facilities, Title 32 National Guard troops, Crisis Counseling, Public Assistance Category B Emergency Protective Measures and other critical commodities. As of July 27, FEMA and HHS have coordinated the delivery of 105.1 million N95 respirators, 159.3 million surgical masks, 17.6 million face shields, 132.5 million gloves, 68.7 million surgical gowns and 6.2 million coveralls.

FEMA continues to lead the operational coordination for the federal interagency response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of July 31, there are over 29,000 federal personnel deployed across the country from FEMA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Defense (DOD), and National Guard to support state, local, tribal and territorial COVID-19 response efforts. 

FEMA continues to source and procure coronavirus testing material. As of July 30, FEMA has procured and delivered more than 41.9 million swabs and 32.8 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 31, 23,516 National Guard troops have activated in T-32 duty status and 252 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 DOD, 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)

On July 28, an Operations Deputies Board (OPSDEPS) convened to discuss the Department’s response to COVID-19 with a focus on DHS workforce safety, response coordination, and continuity.

Science and Technology (S&T)

On July 24, the DHS Science and Technology Directorate issued an Other Transaction solicitation through its Silicon Valley Innovation Program (SVIP) calling for technologies to address near-term needs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Potential solutions discovered from the Emerging Needs: COVID-19 Response & Future Mitigation Topic Call invites start-ups and the innovation community to submit technology solutions that could serve the mission needs of DHS operational components and have a broader application to enhancing operations and preparing for future mitigation. Applications are due on September 30, 2020. There will be a Virtual Industry Day for potential participants, which will be held on August 18, 12:30 – 4:00 p.m.

On July 28, the DHS Science and Technology Directorate updated its Master Question List. New entries include an article by medRxiv highlighted that infectious virus has been found in aerosol samples from COVID-19 patient hospital rooms, primarily in small particles, and an article published in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice noting results from mobile phone data, that social distancing reduced the frequency of encounters between individuals, the frequency of non-essential visits to stores, and overall movement distance, which in turn reduced the effective transmission rate of SARS-CoV-2. In addition, a further article in Infectious Disease Modelling highlighted modeling efforts that indicate masks can be effective even when individual mask efficiency is low, though their benefits are maximized when most of the population wears masks.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

Between July 26 and August 1, TSA screened more than 4,755,867 passengers, who have all reached their destinations safely. TSA officers continue to wear facial protection and gloves while on duty at the checkpoint.

On July 29, TSA hosted a call with cargo program stakeholders as part of the agency’s efforts to continue engaging directly with industry partners throughout the pandemic. On July 30, TSA Administrator David Pekoske met with members of the Surface Transportation Security Advisory Committee (STSAC) and thanked them for their continued contributions while carrying out their industry responsibilities during these unprecedented times due to COVID-19.

TSA continues to promote its “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.

Pekoske said “it is noteworthy that every partner with a stake in the passenger travel experience is equally committed to ensuring the safety and health of transportation workers and airline travelers.”

United States Coast Guard (USCG)

As of July 30, the USCG is tracking 65 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 13,234 crewmembers. This includes an estimated 209 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.

As of July 31, the USCG has recalled and deployed 374 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.

United States Secret Service (USSS)

On July 30, USSS released a Public Service Announcement cautioning everyone against becoming a money mule, or individual who transfers illegally obtained money on behalf of others using bank accounts, wire transfers, money orders, or checks. Criminals are using the unprecedented national response to the coronavirus pandemic as an opportune moment to further their criminal behavior. 

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

ICE’s Operation Stolen Promise (OSP) targets fraudulent activity stemming from the pandemic. As of July 31, as part of OSP, the agency has made 55 criminal arrests, analyzed 52,424 COVID-19-related domains, seized more than $7,639,071 million in illicit proceeds, disrupted 43 instances of illicit activity, sent 1,238 leads to domestic and international field offices, executed 75 search warrants and made 946 COVID-19-related seizures to include prohibited test kits and pharmaceuticals, counterfeit masks and more.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

On July 29, USCIS Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow addressed the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship and announced that USCIS has now completed all pending oaths that were temporarily put on hold due to COVID-19. Since reopening USCIS offices to the public and resuming in-person services on June 4, the agency’s top priority has been to resume naturalization ceremonies for those whose ceremonies were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

As of July 29th, CBP has referred 519,397 travelers to DHS’ Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) office for enhanced health screening at 15 designated airports across the country. 

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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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