For months, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has risen to the new challenges presented by COVID-19. 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. 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.
“As the lead federal agency in the maritime domain, the Coast Guard continues to ‘stand the watch’ through the ongoing global pandemic, fulfilling our civil and military responsibilities to protect America’s security, prosperity, and other national interests” said United States Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Karl L. Schultz. “Since the onset of the outbreak, we have continued to deploy major cutters to enforce laws and treaties and thwart illicit activities such as drug smuggling and illegal migration; we have rescued mariners in distress at sea; responded to oil spills; supported whole of government COVID-19 response efforts, and kept commerce flowing through our 305 seaports and on our 25,000 NM of navigable waterways. We have done this while remaining keenly focused on preserving the health and well-being of our workforce and their families, and hence the Service’s operational readiness.”
Below is a list of some of DHS’s efforts against COVID-19 last week:
United States Coast Guard (USCG)
Always Ready To Protect Our Maritime Domain. While continuing to be the lead federal agency for the maritime domain during the COVID-19 crisis the USCG also made sure both mariners and coastal communities are prepared for the upcoming hurricane season. As part of Hurricane Preparedness Week, the USCG provided area specific messaging in places such as Virginia and New Jersey.
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 May 7th, the Coast Guard is tracking more than 102 cruise ships anchored or moored in U.S. waters, carrying approximately 70,000 crew members from various countries.
Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)
Providing Cyber Tools to Healthcare Organizations. On May 5th, CISA and the United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre released a joint advisory for international healthcare and medical research organizations who are vulnerable to cyber attacks from Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) groups. The advisory describes some of the methods these actors are using to target organizations participating in the COVID-19 response and provides mitigation advice to reduce their cyber risks.
Keeping U.S. Supply Chains Viable. On May 6th, CISA released two supply chain risk management (SCRM) products to help businesses and organizations enhance the security and resiliency of their supply chain networks. It also partnered with the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), to launch a new Commercial Routing Assistance (CRA) tool for truckers and other commercial drivers in the U.S. This free app incorporates coordinated data streams and plots multiple routing options so commercial truck drivers can quickly plan and manage interstate transport in times of emergency.
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 13 specially designated airports. As of May 10th, CWMD has processed more than 290,005 travelers for enhanced screening, including 1,512 who were referred to CDC for further medical evaluation.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Delivering Life Saving PPE. As of May 7, FEMA and HHS in partnership with the private sector, coordinated the delivery of: 87.2 million N95 respirators, 124.8 million surgical masks, 8.6 million face shields, 20.5 million surgical gowns, 974.2 million gloves, 10,663 ventilators and 8,450 federal medical station beds. FEMA and HHS have obligated $73.6 billion in support of COVID-19 efforts, which is an increase of $11.6 billion in the last week.
Coordinating Air Flights to Address Medical Supply Shortages. FEMA continues to expedite the movement of critical supplies, including masks, respirators, gloves, goggles, and surgical gowns, from the global market to medical distributors in various locations across the U.S. This historic partnership with the private sector is named Project Air-Bridge. Between May 3rd and May 9th, 12 international flights arrived in the U.S. with critical medical supplies, bringing the total to 124 with an additional 34 scheduled or in transit. These flights deliver PPE to areas of greatest need through prioritized distributor supply chains nine times faster than movement by sea.
Ready For the Hurricane Season. While FEMA continues to lead the federal operations to the whole-of-America response to the pandemic, the agency continues to prepare for Hurricane Season. On May 8th, Acting Deputy Administrator of Resilience published a blog post highlighting information and steps individuals can take.
Supporting Our Veterans. In a whole-of-government effort, FEMA and the Department of Veterans Affairs have worked very closely together throughout the coronavirus pandemic to bring critical medical supplies to our nation’s heroes.This week, FEMA has coordinated shipments of 4.3 million respirator masks, 1 million surgical masks, 1.5 million gloves, and 14,000 face shields to facilities across the country. An additional 1 million surgical masks and 28,000 gowns to veteran care facilities.
Science and Technology (S&T)
Arming the Nation with Scientific Research. On May 4th, S&T’s Probabilistic Analysis of National Threats, Hazards and Risks (PANTHR) program published a report that compiles the available science-based information on some of the recommended methods of disinfection and reuse for personal protective equipment (PPE). This report is intended for a technical audience. Conservation and reuse of respirators, medical masks, and similar PPE is critical for COVID-19 efforts due to the global shortage of this equipment.
Driving Evidence-Based Policymaking. On May 7th, S&T 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 work showing the positive effects of contact tracing on reducing transmission in a population, and that SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) can infect cells in the human gut.
Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
Keeping Americans Safe While Ensuring Continuity of U.S. Travel. TSA continues to follow CDC guidance to protect its workers and the nation’s transportation system, while ensuring the freedom of movement for people and commerce will not be impeded during the pandemic. Between May 3rd and May 10th, TSA screened more than 795,819 passengers, who have all reached their destinations safely.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Cracking Down on Fraud and Criminal Activity. On May 5th, industry experts from Pfizer, 3M, Citi, Alibaba, Amazon and Merck joined forces with ICE’s National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination (IPR) Center in an unprecedented public-private partnership to combat COVID-19-related fraud and other criminal activity.
Seizing Counterfeit Goods from Foreign Sources. On May 7th, ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) unit in Brownsville, Texas seized approximately 2,500 unapproved COVID-19 face masks. These seizures are part of an interagency enforcement campaign known as Operation Stolen Promise, which was launched by ICE on April 15th to combat COVID-19-related fraud and other criminal activity. To date, ICE has opened more than 260 investigations nationwide.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
Accommodating U.S. Service Members During the Pandemic: On May 6th, USCIS announced it is expanding its online filing capabilities, allowing military servicemembers to file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, online during the COVID-19 pandemic. This provides U.S. service members additional flexibility to pursue naturalization while USCIS offices remain closed out of concerns for public health and safety.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
Project Air-Bridge. As of May 10th, CBP continues to work closely with FEMA to ensure the facilitation of AirBridge flights and coordinate with the DOS and FDA to review donations from foreign allies.
Maintaining Domestic Supply of Critical Medical Equipment. CBP has been proactive in combatting the criminals who are trying to exploit this pandemic. On May 5th , CBP officers at the Brownsville, TX Port of Entry (POE) seized an undeclared shipment of medical equipment valued over $100,000 U.S. dollars (USD), to include ventilators and monitors, destined to Mexico.
Working to Reduce Illegal Entries. CBP is encountering record low numbers of migrants at our southern border due to the implementation of Title 42. On May 6th, CBP conducted their Monthly Operational Update for the month of April. Border crossings are down almost fifty-one percent compared to the number of total encounters in March’s containment efforts. The record low numbers reflect the effectiveness of the Administration’s policies in keeping COVID-19 from crossing into our country and keeping Americans safe.