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 prepares to reopen the economy the Department and its components continue to ensure a safe, secure, and prosperous Homeland for the American people.

“The Secret Service is steadfastly working with our state, local and federal law enforcement partners to protect the public and the nation’s financial infrastructure, especially the healthcare and medical sector, from criminals exploiting the Global Pandemic to commit cyber enabled financial crimes,” said Secret Service Director James Murray. “The Secret Service strongly encourages caution when considering Coronavirus relief or response solicitations requesting financial information, social security numbers, date of birth, or other personal identification information via the internet, text or SMS messaging.”

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

United States Secret Service (USSS)

Protecting The American People From Related Scams. On May 21st, Secret Service released a Smishing Public Service Announcement via Secret Service social media platforms in response to an increase in COVID- 19 related scams. Smishing is a form of phishing via text or SMS messaging and has been used to defraud individuals by asking for donations related to Coronavirus.

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 23rd, CWMD has processed more than 304,319 travelers for enhanced screening, including 1,523 who were referred to CDC for further medical evaluation.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Delivering Life Saving PPE. As of May 22nd, FEMA, HHS, and the private sector combined have coordinated the delivery of or are currently shipping: 84.4 million N95 respirators, 144.2 million surgical masks, 12.0 million face shields, 28.9 million surgical gowns, over 1 billion gloves, 10,708 ventilators and 8,450 federal medical station beds.

Remaining Ready for the Hurricane Season. On May 20th, to address the challenges of managing disaster response and recovery efforts during this year’s hurricane season, FEMA released the “COVID-19 Pandemic Operational Guidance for the 2020 Hurricane Season” to help emergency managers and public health officials best prepare for disasters, while continuing to respond to and recover from coronavirus (COVID-19). The guidance can also be used by private sector and non-governmental organizations to gain an understanding of the government’s posture, planning and readiness efforts.

Coordinating Air Flights to Address Medical Supply Shortages. Since March 29th, through Project Air-Bridge, FEMA continues to expedite the movement of critical, life-saving supplies by utilizing its partnership with the private sector. As of May 22nd, there has been a total of 166 flights with an additional 56 scheduled or in transit for a total of approximately 222 flights.

Office of Operations Coordination (OPS)

Ensuring Situational Awareness. The DHS Crisis Action Team (CAT) continues to work 24/7 solely on Departmental COVID-19 response, managing information, and situational awareness. The CAT supports the Department’s efforts to share information internally and externally during the pandemic. Between May 17th and 23rd, the CAT team produced more than thirty COVID-19-related reports covering Departmental actions and impacts on the DHS workforce.

Science and Technology (S&T)

Driving Evidence-Based Policymaking. On May 21st, 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 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) screening may be ineffective early on in recently exposed individuals, and African green monkeys develop symptoms consistent with severe human disease when exposed to 500,000 plaque-forming units (PFUs) of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Delivering Actionable Information Through Applied Research. On May 20thS&T’s National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) published a study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases titled “Simulated Sunlight Rapidly Inactivates SARS-CoV-2 on Surfaces.” SARS-CoV-2 is the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. This research provides the first evidence that sunlight may rapidly inactivate SARS-CoV-2 on surfaces. Findings in this research inform our understanding of the virus and help shape the operational response to COVID-19.

Sharing Decontamination Best Practices. On May 19th, S&Ts COVID-19 Response Team released a Reference Guide for Operating in Environments where SARS-CoV-2 may be Present, which serves as a knowledge repository of actionable information for those operating within environments where there is risk of exposure. This guide features a comprehensive overview of material and example products intended to assist the Department with developing component-specific Concept of Operations (CONOPS) plans tailored to their unique operational considerations. Decontamination is an important aspect of reducing risk, and must be coupled with effective screening and detection, effective PPE use, and adequate testing.

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 17 and May 23, TSA screened more than 1,839,139 passengers, who have all reached their destinations safely.

Ready To Ensure Safety During The Summer Travel Period. On May 21st, TSA issued a press release announcing updated security procedures for summer travelers. The agency begun to implement changes to the security screening process to reduce the potential for cross-contamination at the security checkpoint in an effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. As procedure changes begin to rollout in the coming weeks, travelers should expect to see some changes at the airport checkpoint including, the need keep hold of their 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 21, the Coast Guard is tracking more than 82 cruise ships anchored, moored, or underway in U.S. waters, carrying approximately 47,900 crew members from various countries.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

Keeping the public safety from COVID-19-related fraud. ICE’s Operation Stolen Promise (OSP) targets fraudulent activity stemming from the pandemic. The initiative combines HSI’s 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. Through May 22, as part of OSP, the agency has made 18 criminal arrests, analyzed 31,058 COVID-19-related domains, seized more than $3.5 million in illicit proceeds, disrupted 35 instances of illicit activity, sent 733 leads to domestic and international field offices, executed 37 search warrants and made 597 COVID-19-related seizures to include prohibited test kits and pharmaceuticals, counterfeit masks and more.

Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)

Keeping Our Critical Infrastructure Safe Criminal Fraud. On May 21st, CISA along with the Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and United States Secret Service (USSS) issued a joint alert warning Americans to be on the lookout for criminal fraud related to economic impact payments—particularly fraud using Coronavirus lures to steal personal and financial information, as well as the economic impact payments themselves—and for adversaries seeking to disrupt payment efforts. The alert contains several resources to help defend, mitigate, and report suspicious cyber activity, especially emails that could be an attempted phishing attack.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Getting American Citizens Home Safe. As of May 22, CBP has assisted State Department in repatriating 93,930 U.S. citizens on 1,001 flights from 138 countries. An additional 69 repatriation flights are scheduled to occur.

DHS.gov (May 2020) Weekly Update: DHS Response to COVID-19

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