The Geogia Tech team’s interactive map shows the risk level of attending an event. (Image by Georgia Tech College of Science)

Weekly Update: DHS Response to COVID-19

As states progress through unique phases of reopening, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has set out its latest response efforts by component in its latest weekly update:

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)

On August 4, in support of Emergency Support Function #14, CISA hosted a Cross-Sector Business and Infrastructure stakeholder conference call to discuss CISA’s response efforts in support of COVID-19.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

On August 3, President Trump granted an extension for the use of the National Guard under Federal Title 32 orders to respond to COVID-19 until December 31, 2020. As of August 6, 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 December 31. 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. 

As of August 6, there are over 26,200 federal personnel deployed across the country from FEMA, HHS, CDC, DoD, National Guard and VA to support state, local, tribal and territorial COVID-19 response efforts. 

As of August 6, FEMA has procured and delivered more than 41.9 million swabs and 32.9 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.

“To ensure we can serve Americans safely, FEMA has worked for months to prepare for the 2020 hurricane season and adapt our response and recovery plans for all severe weather during the ongoing pandemic,” said FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor. “This past week, the Agency’s preparations paid off as we stood ready to provide full response and recovery capabilities in support of affected states throughout Hurricane Isaias. FEMA will continue to work with our state and local partners to prepare for future storms in a COVID-19 environment and ensure there are no unmet needs when disaster strikes.”

Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC)

As of August 6, approximately 1,480 officers and agents have successfully graduated and are now in the field performing work critical to protect the homeland since training was restarted on June 17. There are currently 1,546 students attending in-residence training at Glynco, Charleston, and Artesia training delivery points. 

Science and Technology (S&T)

On August 5, 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: An article by Lancet Public Health highlighted Even among healthcare personnel reporting adequate PPE early in the pandemic (March – April), rates of infection were 3.4 times higher in healthcare personnel than the general population; and Georgia Tech Applied Bioinformatics Laboratory’s new tool that shows the risk level of attending an event, given the event size and location for the U.S.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

Between August 2 and August 8, TSA screened more than 4,865,794 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 to protect Americans, its workers, and the nation’s transportation system, in support of air travel and all other modes of transportation.

On August 4, TSA Administrator Pekoske hosted a virtual employee town hall from TSA headquarters during which he provided the TSA workforce with updates on TSA’s response to COVID-19 as well as updates regarding extensive measures in place to protect the workforce.  On August 5, TSA announced a small business contract award in the amount of $2.48M for additional acrylic barriers to be placed at key airports around the country.  The same day, it issued a media statement clarifying media outlets only reporting cumulative employee infections as opposed to active infections, which are far lower.  

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, support healthy, and secure summer travel.

United States Coast Guard (USCG)

As of August 6, the USCG is tracking 58 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 12,222 crewmembers. This includes an estimated 204 American Citizens crewmembers dispersed among 35 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 August 8, the USCG has recalled and deployed 389 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.

As of August 6, Coast Guard units made storm preparations and monitored Hurricane/TS Isaias along the coast of the mid-Atlantic states and across the northeastern United States. Coast Guard personnel along with local first responders and federal partners, were able to evaluate the need to respond to hurricane-stricken areas while taking adequate precautions in the ongoing COVID environment.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

ICE’s Operation Stolen Promise (OSP) targets fraudulent activity stemming from the pandemic. The initiative combines ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations’ (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 August 6, as part of OSP, the agency has made 59 criminal arrests, analyzed 54,374 COVID-19-related domains, seized more than $7,859,521 million in illicit proceeds, disrupted 45 instances of illicit activity, sent 1,260 leads to domestic and international field offices, executed 76 search warrants and made 969 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)

On August 6, CBP announced that since the pandemic began until the end of July, CBP had more than 355 seizures of FDA-prohibited COVID-19 test kits, resulting in the interception of more than 120,000 prohibited tests kits; 85 seizures of counterfeit face masks, resulting in the interception of more than 12 million masks; and 97 seizures of EPA-prohibited anti-virus lanyards, resulting in the interception of 4,000 lanyards seized.

As of August 5, 2020, CBP had referred 535,216 travelers at the 15 funneling airports to DHS’ Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction office for enhanced health screening.

Read the update at DHS

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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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