Weekly Update: DHS Response to COVID-19
Release Date: May 18, 2020
WASHINGTON – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) continues its mission to protect the homeland during the COVID-19 pandemic. DHS is committed to making sure our critical infrastructure and supply chains remain strong, while also monitoring ongoing threats. We continue to work with our state and local partners, who have been key in helping with our response and we continue to work hand-in-hand with them.
"From the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak, CWMD has been a key contributor in the Whole of America response to protect the nation from this silent enemy," said Acting Assistant Secretary of DHS's Office of Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) Gary Rasicot. "Whether tracking and reporting on the initial outbreak, coordinating response efforts across multiple agencies, or working with our partners at CDC and CBP to provide enhanced entry screening at select airports, CWMD has stood ready to protect our citizens. We are proud to be a part of the DHS response to COVID-19 and will continue to do our part to assist our federal, state, and local partners in protecting our great nation from chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and other health threats."
Below is a list of some of DHS's efforts against COVID-19 last week:
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 16, CWMD has processed more than 296,720 travelers for enhanced screening, including 1,516 who were referred to CDC for further medical evaluation.
Supporting Our Federal, State, Local, and Tribal Partners. CWMD continues to assess state, local and tribal leaders with resources to respond to COVID-19. Dr. Alex Eastman, CWMD's Senior Medical Officer for Operations, is currently detailed to FEMA and traveling across the nation providing support to local leaders. Dr. Eastman recently traveled to Alaska and partnered with Alaska's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Anne Zink, to ensure rural communities receive required care. On May 12th, Dr. Eastman was recognized by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) during a U.S Senate hearing, expressing her gratitude for the federal assistance her state has received in response to COVID-19.
Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)
Keeping Our Critical Infrastructure Safe From Foreign Actors. On May 13th, CISA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) jointly issued a Public Service Announcement warning organizations researching COVID-19 of likely targeting and network compromise by the People's Republic of China (PRC). CISA and FBI encourage COVID-19 research organizations to review and apply the announcement's recommended mitigations to protect their systems.
Provide Cyber Tools to Our Education System. On May 13th, as a result of many school districts incorporating distance learning tools as a means of delivering curricula, CISA published a video conferencing cybersecurity guidance and tip sheet for K-12 schools. The conferencing guidance is designed for school district administrations, campus IT administrators, teachers and staff to help them think through cybersecurity issues
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Delivering Life Saving PPE. As of May 16th, FEMA, HHS, and the private sector combined have coordinated the delivery of: 83.3 million N95 respirators, 133.7 million surgical masks, 10.6 million face shields, 23.1 million surgical gowns, 989 million gloves, 10,708 ventilators and 8,450 federal medical station beds.
Using Data to Ensure Supplies Go Where They Are Most Needed. On May 15th, FEMA updated the National Resource Prioritization Cell. The National Resource Prioritization Cell (NRPC) consists of interagency subject matter experts to address prioritization of limited critical medical supplies throughout the nation as part of the federal COVID-19 response. The cell uses a data-informed process to develop recommendations to ensure distribution of the right resources to the right places at the right times.
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 16th, there has been a total of 141 flights with an additional 64 scheduled or in transit.
Office of Operations Coordination (OPS)
Ensuring Information Sharing During COVID-19. On May 13th, OPS led a DHS leadership group to review the Department's operational posture to ensure that the Department is ready to adjust operations if there is a sudden surge in COVID-19 cases in Central America.
Science and Technology (S&T)
Using Data to Protect First Responders and Care Providers. On May 13th, S&T released predictive modeling tool to estimate natural decay of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) under a range of temperatures and relative humidity. Leveraging the results of ongoing research conducted at S&T's National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC), the tool is designed to assist response efforts and estimate the environmental persistence of the virus under certain combinations of temperatures and humidity. The results of this work will provide essential information to protect those responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, including first responders and health care providers, as well as provide best practices for individuals to reduce potential for contamination.
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 10th and May 13th, TSA screened more than 756,332 passengers, who have all reached their destinations safely.
United States Coast Guard (USCG)
A Nations Returns To Recreational Boating. This week, many state and local jurisdictions eased their bans on recreational boating. Throughout the National Boating Safety Week, the Coast Guard urged all Americans to familiarize themselves with the best practices for a safe boating experience as they return to the water.
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 15th, the Coast Guard is tracking more than 85 cruise ships anchored, moored, or underway in U.S. waters, carrying approximately 50,600 crew members from various countries.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Keeping Our Children Safe While They Learn From Home. On May 12th, ICE launched an outreach and awareness campaign through the iGuardian program, offering virtual presentations to schools and youth organizations/groups to teach parents, guardians, educators, and kids on the dangers of online exploitation and best safety practices to avoid encounters with predators. This is especially important as children spend more time on the internet during the COVID-19 pandemic.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
Providing Greater Flexibility for Certain Foreign Medical Graduate Physicians. On May 11th, USCIS announced that it is temporarily increasing flexibility for certain foreign medical graduates inside the United States who are directly contributing to the coronavirus public health emergency response effort. USCIS issued a policy memorandum to allow certain foreign physicians to deliver telehealth services during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Providing telehealth flexibility at this critical time will allow these physicians to safely respond to a greater number of patients without additional risk of infection to either the physician or patient.
Offering Flexibilities to Increase Food Security and Stabilize U.S. Supply Chain. On May 12th, USCIS announced a temporary final rule to change certain H-2B requirements to help support the U.S. food supply chain, maintain essential infrastructure operations and reduce the impact from the coronavirus public health emergency. These temporary measures apply solely to aliens already present in the United States with a valid H-2B nonimmigrant status, and the temporary final rule does not increase H-2B visas above the congressionally-mandated 66,000 visa cap through the remainder of fiscal year 2020.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
Securing Our Borders to Stop the Spread of COVID-19. As of May 15th, CBP has completed 187 miles of new wall, with our goal to complete 450 miles of the border wall system by the end of 2020. In the age of COVID-19, migrants arriving at our borders, with or without symptoms, can be a potential risk to our frontline personnel, doctors and nurses, and the American people. The border wall system has helped us stem the spread of COVID-19.
Supporting the Safe Return of U.S. Citizens Stranded Overseas. As of May 13th, CBP, in close coordination with the State Department's Repatriation Task Force, has facilitated the return of more and 87,770 U.S citizens back to the U.S. from 135 countries.
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