The Legal Authority for States’ Stay-at-Home Orders

In March 2020, when many U.S. states and localities issued their first emergency orders to address Covid-19, there was widespread acceptance of the government’s legal authority to respond quickly and aggressively to this unprecedented crisis. Today, that acceptance is fraying. As initial orders expire and states move to extend or modify them, legal challenges have sprouted. The next phase of the pandemic response will see restrictions dialed up and down as threat levels change.  As public and political resistance grows, further legal challenges are inevitable.