National Situation Update- 2/21/2021

WEEKLY THREAT AND ALERT ROUNDUP

Feds Seize Millions of Fake N95 Masks from China - ALLOW IMAGES

Feds Seize Millions of Fake N95 Masks from China


February 20, 2021

  

What You Need To Know

More than 11 million counterfeit 3M N95 masks have been seized by the Department of Homeland Security in recent weeks, and suspected victims of the scam include hospitals and medical facilities in at least 12 states. Authorities say they have contacted around 6,000 hospitals, clinics, and others who may have accidentally purchased the fake masks, advising them to stop using them and contact DHS immediately.

As many as 1.9 million counterfeit 3M masks were shipped to about 40 hospitals in Washington state alone. Cassie Sauer, the president and chief executive of the Washington State Hospital Association, said that Washington state hospitals bought hundreds of thousands of the fraudulent masks, and the association itself bought 300,000 for its members. Just weeks ago, the Cleveland Clinic issued a statement saying that a portion of its N95 mask supply used by their health system since November were counterfeit and “not effective as respirators.”

According to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, one million counterfeit N95 masks were confiscated on Wednesday of this week at a warehouse in Western Maryland. The seizure came as part of a larger investigative effort known as Operation Stolen Promise. Launched in April of last year, the goal of the effort is to protect the Homeland from the increasing and evolving threat posed by COVID-19-related fraud and criminal activity. This includes seizure of shipments of mislabeled, fraudulent, unauthorized or prohibited COVID-19 test kits, treatment kits, homeopathic remedies, purported anti-viral products, as well as all manner of knockoffs and substandard personal protective equipment (PPE). So far, in partnership with border officials, the FDA and FBI, $33 million in phony products have been seized and and more than 230 persons arrested.

The fake masks that were seized this week have the stamp “3M” on them and are shipped in boxes that say “Made in the USA,” although they are not. According to Steve Francis, director of the Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, an element of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the knockoff masks are all produced in China. Quoting Francis;

“They’re extremely dangerous. They’re providing a false sense of security to our first-line responders and to American consumers.”

Officials are urging consumers to be cautions when purchasing N95 masks. Do not confuse them with KN95 masks, which meet standards in China but are not certified by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Typical hallmarks of knockoffs include grammatical errors or typos on packaging and user instructions, loose fitting straps, odd smells, poor construction, and lack of a NIOSH seal.

Learn to spot the fakes here and here.



Coronavirus Update Graphic - ALLOW IMAGES


Coronavirus Update


February 20, 2021


What You Need To Know

According to data provided by the COVID Tracking Project, all major indicators of COVID-19 transmission in the United States continue to fall rapidly. Weekly new cases have fallen from 1.7 million at the national peak in early January to fewer than 600,000 this week, and cases have declined in every state. As we’ve seen at many points in the pandemic, case numbers are changing most quickly, with hospitalizations and deaths declining after a delay: cases have been falling sharply for five weeks, hospitalizations for four, and deaths for two. In this week’s numbers from nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities, we are now seeing solid declines in deaths correlated with COVID-19 vaccinations of this most vulnerable population.

Despite the declines, the total number of people hospitalized is still very high—hospitalizations have yet to fall far enough to reach even the peaks of the two previous surges, which both rose to roughly 60 thousand hospitalizations.

As of Friday at 6:00 PM ET, there were 3,003 deaths reported for the day. In total, more than 496,000 deaths in the U.S. have been attributed to the virus.

The Department of Homeland Security has extended the restrictions on non-essential cross-border travel with Canada and Mexico through March 21st.

Effective January 26, the CDC requires all air passengers entering the United States (including U.S. citizens and Legal Permanent Residents) to present a negative COVID-19 test, taken within three calendar days of departure​, or proof of recovery from the virus within the last 90 days.

Air travelers entering Canada will now be forced into mandatory hotel quarantine at their own expense to await results of a COVID test. Trudeau says the new requirement is part of a suite of measures designed to keep Canadians at home, as the government is increasingly concerned about the risk of new COVID variants that appear to be more transmissible and more deadly.

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Important COVID-19 Headlines

One in three US service members refuse to take COVID-19 vaccine
DoD considers sending more than 18K troops to help vaccinate America
Israel to bar unvaccinated people from some jobs, says health minister
Mutations have made coronavirus 8X more infectious
Macron proposes vaccine plan as UK prepares to host G7
Hopkins experts expound upon COVID-19 variants, vaccine doses
What Are The 677 Mutations? New Covid-19 Variants Found In The US
Another new coronavirus variant now detected in 13 countries
Experts Warn Against COVID-19 Variants as States Reopen


SITUATION REPORTS / OFFICIAL CASE NUMBERS

The COVID Tracking Project
World Health Organization
Centers for Disease Control (U.S.)
Johns Hopkins CSSE (Interactive map updated multiple times daily)

OFFICIAL CORONAVIRUS INFORMATION PAGES

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Food and Drug Administration
Public Health Agency of Canada
Infection Prevention and Control Canada
World Health Organization


AlertsUSA.com

SMS ALERTS FROM THIS WEEK
NOT DETAILED IN THIS NEWSLETTER ISSUE

2/19 – DHS: U.S. land borders with Canada and Mexico will remain closed to non-essential travel until at least March 21 due to continued spread of SARS-CoV-2.

2/17 – At least 7 shot at the SE Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) station in Philadelphia’s Olney neighborhood. One gunman in custody. Monitoring..

2/15 – Southwest Power Pool declares Energy Emergency Alert level 3, will implement immediate rolling blackouts across 17 central and western states. Monitoring..

2/14 – Electric Reliability Council of Texas warns of possible rotating outages resulting from high demand on grid due to extreme temps. Conservation urged.


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Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED): Preparedness, Recognition and Response - ALLOW IMAGES

Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED):
Preparedness, Recognition and Response


February 20, 2021


In the post-9/11 era, first responders have incorporated protecting the Homeland against terrorism into their daily mission. Law enforcement, fire service, and emergency medical services personnel play a vital role in detecting and preventing attacks because of the nature of their work, their frequent interaction with members of the public, and the level of access their jobs provide. People who hold these jobs often can identify behaviors or activities that could signal a pending terrorist attack; therefore, public safety personnel must continue to report, according to the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative, observations that raise reasonable suspicion.

The Intelligence Community routinely produces information for public safety personnel that may help first responders identify terrorist-related activities and prevent, deter, or respond to terrorist attacks. In light of the December 25, 2020 detonation of a recreational vehicle bomb in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, AlertsUSA provides the following resources from the National Counterterrorism Center to help increase awareness of first responders and members of the general public.

Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED):
Preparedness, Recognition and Response

Vehicle-Borne Attacks: Tactics and Mitigation

Best Practices for Vehicle Screening Against Terrorist Attacks


Tussle Over Rare Earth Elements Heating Up - ALLOW IMAGES


Tussle Over Rare Earth Elements Heating Up


In a move clearly meant to taunt the United States and its allies, China is looking at limiting the export of rare earth elements (REEs) that are crucial to sophisticated weaponry, according to an exclusive report in the Financial Times.

~ READ MORE HERE ~


Iran: The Mullah’s Pursuit of Obtaining Nuclear Weapons


In spite of the Iranian leaders’ claim that their nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, evidence reveals that the Iranian regime has long sought to acquire nuclear weapons.

A recent report by the International Atomic Energy Agency pointed out that “Samples taken from two sites during inspections in the fall by the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) contained traces of radioactive material”.

~ READ MORE HERE ~


Aspiring Immigrants Are Massing in Northern Mexico


Despite significant Mexican counter-migration operations on behalf of the new U.S. administration, large numbers of migrants from around the world are still flowing into northern cities and towns along the border from Texas to California, powered by adrenaline from recent Biden moves to open the border wide, according to a CIS survey of Mexican media reporting.

~ READ MORE HERE ~



Fleet and Marine Tracker Map as of Feb 18, 2021  - ALLOW IMAGES

USNI Fleet and Marine Tracker


These are the approximate positions of the U.S. Navy’s deployed carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups throughout the world as of Feb 18, 2021 based on Navy, public data provided by the U.S. Naval Institute, and open source reporting. In cases where a CSG or ARG is conducting disaggregated operations, the chart reflects the location of the capital ship


An Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon conducts an aerial refuel with a KC-135 Stratotanker during Cope North near Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Feb. 18, 2021. The annual exercise promotes stability and security throughout the Indo-Pacific. - ALLOW IMAGES

World News Roundup


AMERICAS


Texas was ‘seconds’ away from ‘months-long’ power outage
Blinken says the U.S. is willing to meet Iran for face-to-face talks
US says it’s ready to join talks to resume Iran nuclear deal
Earth quietest in decades as lockdowns reduce seismic noise
Special Program – Biden’s America: Too damaged to lead?
Why Russia Is Terrified of SpaceX — and Starlink
Cuomo-gate: a Nixonian scandal is engulfing New York
Democrats to unveil Biden’s US immigration reform bill
Texas power outages below 500,000 but water crisis persists
Coronavirus: US life expectancy falls by a year amid pandemic
Mexico president calls for reduced electric consumption
Ecuador election: Tension rises over delayed result

EUROPE


Spain: Dozens arrested in fresh riots over rapper’s jailing
Russia, China to sign agreement on international lunar research station
Russian fighters make unsafe intercept of French Air Force aircraft
French fighter jet flies through electrical lines and cuts power to village
Spain Hoped Catalonia’s Separatists Would Fade. They’re Gaining Ground
Catalonia election: Socialists win, but separatists expand majority
EU records 450,000 excess deaths between March and November
Georgia prime minister resigns over opposition leader arrest plan
Diplomats: EU to impose sanctions on Russians over Navalny by March summit
Russia slams European rights court’s ‘unlawful’ order to free Navalny
Russia to present new concept of national digital currency
Belarus jails Belsat TV journalists for filming protest

MIDDLE EAST / AFRICA


Killings surge in Syria camp housing Islamic State families
Trial opens in Algeria jihadist beheading of French mountaineer
Ebola Is Back. Can the WHO Contain It?
US signals it is open to sending more troops to support NATO’s mission in Iraq
NATO expands mission in Iraq on the heels of deadly rocket attack
Ten thousand ISIS fighters poised for new wave of terror
Erbil Attacks Part of Iran’s ‘Opening Overture’ To Biden
Turkey-US relations: A rocky road ahead
Who are the Syrian Kurdish women fighters who took down ISIS?
Euphoria of Morocco’s Arab Spring has fizzled out
Positive signals’ needed to save JCPOA, Merkel tells Rouhani
Iran nuclear deal hangs in balance as Tehran turns screw on US
U.S. vows consequences for group behind Iraq rocket attack
Saudi-led coalition in Yemen moves troops to Marib to repel Houthis
Lebanon judge removed from Beirut blast probe: judicial source
WHO to send over 11,000 Ebola vaccines to Guinea amid outbreak
Nigeria hunts school kidnappers as families call for help
Nigeria minister: Don’t be ‘cowards’ when attacked
Egypt’s Sisi offers support to Libya’s new PM
Ivory Coast minister to meet ex-president Gbagbo to discuss return
Ugandan soldiers jailed for assaulting journalists

ASIA


China ramps up military build-up in Tibet, Xinjiang
Tussle over rare earth elements heating up
Mutations have made coronavirus 8X more infectious
Whyis COVID in retreat around the world?
How China’s national security law threatens Hong Kong’s internet freedom
Heir Apparent? The Grooming Of Turkmenistan’s Serdar Berdymukhammedov
Top Bhutan general, judges detained in alleged overthrow plot
Nearly 500 detained in Myanmar, hackers target military websites
UK and Canada impose sanctions on Myanmar generals after coup
Blinken tells Ghani U.S. supports Afghanistan peace process
Taiwan blames China after deal for 5m Covid vaccine doses is put on hold
US charges three N. Koreans in $US1.3 billion hacking spree
Facebook imposes Australia news blackout


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Travel Security Resources


Department of State Seal - ALLOW IMAGES

The U.S. Dept. of State Travel Website is the authoritative federal source for information on the security situation at travel destinations worldwide. With tensions rapidly increasing in most regions, readers planning international travel, even to such common destinations as Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean Islands, are strongly encouraged to research on the security situation at your destination prior to departure.


Active USGOV Travel Notices

Worldwide Caution


Active USGOV Travel Advisories

Alphabetical Country List

Dynamic Map


Other USGOV Travel Resources

Traveler’s Checklist

Smart Traveler Enrollment Prog (STEP)

Travelers with Special Considerations

Travel to High-Risk Areas

Faith-Based Travel Information

Information for Women Travelers

Cruise Ship Passengers

Students Abroad

Your Health Abroad

Driving and Road Safety Abroad


Overseas Security Advisory Council Logo - ALLOW IMAGES

The Department of State’s Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) provides a variety of resources to enhance the safety and security of the U.S. private sector businesses and organizations operating abroad.


CDC Logo - ALLOW IMAGES

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website is the authoritative federal source for information on current health issues related to specific destinations worldwide. These issues may arise from disease outbreaks, special events or gatherings, natural disasters, or other conditions that may affect travelers’ health.


Foreign Sources of Travel Guidance


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Global Affairs Canada


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Australia Dept. of Foreign Affairs


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UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office


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