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?

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