Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf meets with Port of Jacksonville leadership on May 26, 2020. (DHS photo by Benjamin Applebaum)

Weekly Update: DHS Response to COVID-19

For months, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has taken on the challenges presented by COVID-19. Thanks to our workforce’s efforts across its components DHS has facilitated a speedy, whole-of-government response to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. As the nation continues to reopen the economy, the Department and its components continue to ensure a safe, secure, and prosperous Homeland for the American people.

“The men and women of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement continue to work tirelessly to keep the American public safe from fraudulent products and activity related to the Coronavirus,” said ICE Deputy Director and Senior Official Performing the Duties of Director, Matthew T. Albence. “Together with intra-agency partners like U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the private sector, Operation Stolen Promise prevents and investigates criminal activity surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Strong partnerships are critical to strengthening global supply-chain security and will ultimately protect the American public from victimization. One thing we want the public to know: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.” 

Below is a list of some of DHS’ efforts against COVID-19 last week:

Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)

Encouraging Support to Nation’s Communications Workers. On May 26th, CISA in partnership with the Federal Communications Commission, sent a letter to the nation’s governors encouraging them to provide necessary access and resources to the communications workers helping to keep Americans connected during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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 May 30th, CWMD has processed more than 314,062 travelers for enhanced screening, including 1,528 who were referred to CDC for further medical evaluation.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

FEMA Continues Deliveries of Needed Medical Supplies. As of May 28th, 6,940 shipments of medical supplies have been delivered or are in transit 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. As of May 28, FEMA, HHS, and the private sector combined have coordinated the delivery of, or are currently shipping: 92.1 million N95 respirators, 146.1 million surgical masks, 12.7 million face shields, 32.9 million surgical gowns, and over 1 billion pairs of gloves.

FEMA Assists in Administration’s COVID-19 Testing Strategy. To support the Administration’s Testing Blueprint, FEMA is working to source and procure testing material – specifically, testing swabs and transport media. As of May 28, FEMA has procured and delivered 9.9 million swabs and 5.5 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. 

Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC)

FLETC to Resume On-Site Training Operations. On May 26th, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC) announced it will start its reengineered training programs for federal law enforcement officers on June 17, 2020. Students will begin returning to in-residence sites during the first week of June, 2020.

Office of Operations Coordination (OPS) 

Office of Operations Coordination Ensuring Departmental Continuity of Operations (COOP) during COVID-19. OPS works to implement strategies and capabilities to ensure DHS continuity of operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. As of May 28th, OPS has held dozens of resiliency planning meetings and discussions on mission assurance to enable the Department to share information, lessons learned, and best practices, ultimately ensuring DHS’ mission-essential functions continue during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Science and Technology (S&T)

Driving Evidence-Based Policymaking. On May 26th, 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 work showing COVID-19 patients are infectious for approximately 7-10 days after symptom onset and for several days before symptoms begin, though individuals who have recovered clinically, but test positive appear unable to transmit COVID-19. Experimental trials suggest surgical masks may reduce SARS-CoV-2 aerosol transmission. A   new section in the document describes forecasting models currently under development at several research institutions.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

Keeping Americans Safe While Ensuring Continuity of U.S. Travel and Commerce. TSA 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. Between May 24th and May 30th, TSA screened more than 2,052,009 passengers, who have all reached their destinations safely.

Ready to Ensure Safety During the Summer Travel Period (Memorial Day to Labor Day). Between May 24th and May 30th, TSA continued to communicate to airline travelers the new normal they can expect to see at airport screening checkpoints nationwide. The agency has started implementing changes to airport security screening processes to reduce the potential for cross-contamination at the security checkpoint in an effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. As summer travel ramps up, travelers should expect to see changes at airports across the country including the ability for travelers to keep boarding passes, separating food containers for X-ray screening, and social distancing.

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 President Trump’s EO before docking at a U.S. port to help reduce the spread of foreign originating COVID-19. As of May 29, the Coast Guard is tracking more than 76 cruise ships anchored, moored, or underway in U.S. waters, carrying approximately 38,400 crew members from various countries.

United States Secret Service (USSS)

U.S. Secret Service Disrupts COVID-19 Attempted Fraud on Foreign Government. On May 28th, the USSS disrupted a bogus sale of N-95 face masks to a foreign government by a man in Georgia. The USSS led the investigation of the potential sale of non-existent N-95 face masks as part of the government’s COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force created by the Department of Justice.

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 May 29th, as part of OSP, the agency has made 18 criminal arrests, analyzed 36,393 COVID-19-related domains, seized more than $4,022,371.07  million in illicit proceeds, disrupted 36 instances of illicit activity, sent 831 leads to domestic and international field offices, executed 38 search warrants and made 621 COVID-19-related seizures to include prohibited test kits and pharmaceuticals, counterfeit masks and more. 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

Resuming In-Person Services. On May 26thUSCIS announced it will reopen some offices to the public on June 4 and resume in-person services, such as interviews and naturalization ceremonies. CDC prevention guidelines, such as social distancing, facial masks, and other measures, will be in effect to protect the USCIS workforce and those visiting USCIS facilities. USCIS has already begun to conduct naturalization ceremonies prior to fully resuming in-person services when health and safety precautions can be followed.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Two Additional Airports added to List Receiving Flights from Travel-Restricted Nations. On May 25th, President Trump added Brazil to the list of travel-restricted countries which have been highly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. To accommodate the inclusion of Brazil, George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport have been added to the existing list of airports currently receiving flights from travel-restricted nations, bringing the total to 15 airports.

Getting American Citizens Home Safe. As of May 27th, CBP has assisted the State Department in repatriating 96,233 U.S. citizens on 1,035 flights from 139 countries. An additional 80 repatriation flights are scheduled to occur.

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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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