WASHINGTON – The Department of Homeland Security remains vigilant against the COVID-19 virus and continues to lead an unprecedented national response to slow its growth and deny its transmission to vulnerable populations. To effectuate this, the Department is marshaling the full power of America, from state and local governments to private industry, to identify and accelerate the distribution of critical resources to highly-impacted areas, while securing our borders and protecting vital supply chains from unnecessary disruptions. These coordinated efforts are saving millions of lives and ensuring that no one in America is left behind throughout this crisis.
“As the world faces a new and unprecedented danger, an unseen enemy that doesn’t respect borders or boundaries, CBP is leading America’s defense against COVID-19’s threat to life, commerce, and travel”, said Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan. “CBP ensures that the U.S. stands ready to facilitate free flowing trade while safeguarding our air, land, and sea borders from unlawful travel and illegal immigration – modes of movement that could potentially expose the U.S. to the transmission of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. The stakes are high, and our mission is too important to the safety and security of the nation for the agency to fail.”
Below is a list of some of DHS’s efforts against COVID-19 last week:
Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
Supporting the Safe Return of U.S. Citizens Stranded Overseas. As of April 19th, CBP, in close coordination with the State Department’s Repatriation Task Force, has facilitated the return of more than 64,000 Americans back to the U.S. from 110 countries.
Securing the Border from Infectious Diseases. While commercial activities and essential travel remain unrestricted, CBP continues to collaborate with its partners in Canada and Mexico to limit non-essential travel aimed at preventing COVID-19 from crossing our shared borders. As of April 17th, POV traffic has decreased by over 58%, pedestrian traffic by 73%, and overall port of entry traffic (including private and commercial vehicles, vehicle passengers, and pedestrians) by 50%.
Deferment on Payment for Certain Importers. On April 19th, CBP and Treasury announced an Executive Order signed by President Trump that gives additional economic support for U.S. businesses, including critical supply chains for U.S. manufacturers, during the COVID-19 pandemic. The order gives the Administration the flexibility to allow for a 90-day deferment period on duties and fees for importers who have faced a significant financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic response.
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 April 19th, CWMD has processed approximately 275,670 travelers for enhanced screening, including 1,503 who were referred to CDC for further medical evaluation.
Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)
Ensuring that Critical Sectors Remain Operational. On April 17th, CISA updated its guidance for identifying the “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce,” which state and local governments may use in making decisions about how best to address the COVID-19 pandemic. CISA’s revisions to its advisory list incorporate more expansive as well as targeted language for many functions. In particular, CISA updated many categories to include workers who support critical functions by providing maintenance, equipment, supplies, storage, transport, or other types of support to health care, public and environmental health, emergency medical services, and other types of aligned professions.
Increasing Connectivity to Priority Networks for Essential Workers. As of April 19th, CISA has provided priority telecommunication services to 65,606 additional users, including public safety and national security professionals, in the private and public sectors. This surge in domain access allows essential critical workers to utilize federal emergency systems to maintain operational readiness in high-impact areas throughout the COVID-19 response.
Preserving Our National Security Against Foreign Adversaries. CISA issued a joint advisory with the FBI, Treasury, and State Department on April 15th highlighting the cyber threat posed by North Korea to critical U.S. infrastructure, and provided recommendations to enhance cybersecurity and boost resiliency, especially for industries that are already vulnerable as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Defending the American Public from Cyber Scams. CISA reported on April 17th that it has identified and blocked over 3,500 COVID-19-related malicious domains and email addresses since the start of the pandemic. Cyber hackers are regularly sending emails with malicious attachments or links to fraudulent websites to gain access to company data and resources, or to trick victims into revealing sensitive information or donating to fraudulent charities and causes. CISA’s cyber-defenses help deny malicious actors the ability to utilize the web as a portal for criminal activity and aid law enforcement in bringing violators to justice.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Deploying Federal Funds in Support of State Response Efforts. Federal funds are being deployed to help ensure that health care providers have the critical resources they need to provide rapid care and treatment to COVID-19 patients in hard-hit areas across the U.S. Since April 12th, FEMA has obligated around $500 million to support state response efforts, bringing the total amount to $5.7 billion thus far.
Delivering Life-Saving Medicine to Areas of Greatest Need. Shipments of critical Hydroxychloroquine medicine are being delivered regularly by FEMA to cities and states that are most impacted by the pandemic. As of April 19th, more than 28 million tablets have been given to hospitals and clinics in 14 cities, including a shipment to support the Veterans Affairs Consolidated Mail Outpatient Pharmacy, which is caring for the veteran population during the crisis.
Increasing Availability of Critical Resources. As a part of the Supply Chain Stabilization Task Force, FEMA is executing a whole-of-nation approach to address the limited supply of critical and life-saving equipment. As of April 19th, FEMA has coordinated the delivery of the following to areas of great need: 55.8 million N95 respirators, 77.1 million surgical masks, 6.1 million face shields, 11.4 million surgical gowns, 564 million gloves, 212,000 coveralls, and 10,998 ventilators.
Reducing Burdens on Public Health Labs. In an effort to streamline the acquisition process, the Supply Chain Stabilization Task Force is cutting through red tape that is creating unnecessary burdens for public health labs to increase testing capacity across the country. On April 13th, FEMA and HHS expanded the items supplied by the International Reagent Resource (IRR) to help labs access diagnostics supplies for COVID-19 testing free of charge. The expanded list includes supplies to support the three components needed for COVID-19 testing: sample kits, extracting kits, and test kits.
Expanding Surge Capacity in Highly-Impacted Areas. FEMA is focusing its allocation of resources in highly impacted areas experiencing the greatest increase in COVID-19 transmission and the greatest increase in forecasted capacity shortfalls. To date, FEMA has delivered 8,600 medical beds to surge capacity and care for an increased volume of COVID-19 patients across the U.S. It has also provided more than $1.7 billion to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to build and design alternate care facilities that are offering nearly 15,700 medical beds to patients in highly-impacted areas as of April 19th.
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 April 12th and April 19th, 36 international flights arrived in the U.S. with critical medical supplies, bringing the total to 64 with an additional 50 scheduled. This includes a flight on April 16th carrying 6,000 FEMA-procured test kits from manufacturers in South Korea. Each kit contains 100 tests for a total of 600,000 tests.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Cracking Down on Fraud and Criminal Activity. On April 15th, ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) unit announced the launch of Operation Stolen Promise to combat COVID-19 related fraud and other criminal activity. To date, HSI special agents have opened over 130 investigations nationwide; seized over $3 million in illicit proceeds; made 9 arrests; sinkholed over 11,000 COVID-19 domain names, and worked alongside CBP to seize over 225 shipments of mislabeled, fraudulent, unauthorized or prohibited COVID-19 test kits, treatment kits, homeopathic remedies, purported anti-viral products, and personal protective equipment.
Intelligence & Analysis (I＆A)
Keeping the Homeland Safe, Secure and Resilient. On April 16th, DHS Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) provided information to federal, state, local, tribal and territorial counterterrorism and law enforcement officials regarding potential threats to the U.S. Energy Sector during the COVID-19 pandemic. I&A also alerted its security partners to a possible increase in cyber threats to the U.S. health care system. These threat-monitoring activities ensure the homeland is safe, secure, and resilient from hostile actors who might otherwise attempt to exploit the crisis to harm American lives.
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 April 12th and April 19th, TSA screened nearly 670,000 travelers who have all reached their destinations safely.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
Protecting the Nation’s Food Supply Chain by Supporting American Farmers. On April 15th, USCIS announced a final rule to temporarily amend certain H-2A requirements to help U.S. agricultural employers avoid disruptions in lawful agriculture-related employment, protect the nation’s food supply chain, and lessen the impacts from COVID-19. These temporary flexibilities will not weaken or eliminate protections for U.S. workers.
United States Coast Guard (USCG)
Monitoring Vessels that Pose a Risk to Public Health. The U.S. Coast Guard is working non-stop to protect the health and safety of the American public while helping keeping U.S. supply chains open and viable. Between April 12th and April 19th, USCG tracked 11 cruise ships and 85 commercial vessels that embarked from a coronavirus-impacted country and was scheduled to arrive at a U.S. port. The USCG also issued an order on April 17th restricting the MS Noordham cruise ship from entering U.S. territorial waters after being identified by the CDC as presenting an unacceptable risk of spreading COVID-19 from infected crew members.