President Trump declared a national state of emergency over the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak on March 13, 2020. Almost every state has declared a state of emergency as well (oftentimes with local governments following suit). States have invoked emergency powers, pursuant to such declarations: schools have been closed; many nonessential businesses have been shut down; and public gatherings of a certain size are banned. This post addresses two main questions stemming from such actions: (1) What authority do federal and state governments have in a national emergency? (2) What limits does the U.S. Constitution place on their authority, and what federal constitutional rights could American businesses invoke to protect their property?
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.