Coronavirus vs. Constitution: What can government stop you from doing in a pandemic?

Still, these measures aren’t undertaken without due process.

“The government does have sweeping powers to combat communicable disease but there are limits,” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Stanley told McClatchy News officials have a set of guidelines to follow when it comes to making these decisions — it has to be overwhelmingly in the public interest, rooted in rational, scientific ends and done by the least intrusive means possible. There must also be a mechanism to challenge it.

Officials can’t, for example, use COVID-19 as an excuse or pretext “to achieve illegitimate ends” like shutting down a protest or discriminating against certain groups, he said.

Hodge said these types of measures aren’t designed to be punitive, they’re protective — and they don’t “trip any constitutional safeguards when done right.”

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