Cutting Through Government Action in COVID-19: Reasonable or Arbitrary?

In March of 2020, governors across the United States implemented “lockdowns” to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, limiting the operation of many businesses in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus. Many of these measures have been relaxed or eliminated over the last year, but most states still have restrictions of some kind in place.

These restrictions have drawn criticism on both substantive and procedural grounds – is it reasonable to force many businesses to close (some permanently) rather than allow them to attempt to operate in a virus-safe manner? And, even if the restrictions are good policy, should governors have the power to enact them unilaterally without input from state legislatures?

On the flip side, many argue that despite their immediate economic costs, the lockdowns were necessary to stem the spread of a virus that has claimed more than 550,000 American lives. Additionally, many contend that governors are uniquely positioned to respond rapidly to the ever-changing landscape of a pandemic.

In this Fourth Branch video, legal experts and business owners affected by the restrictions weigh in on the debate.

Related Reading:

COVID-19 Economic Crisis: By State

Ten facts about COVID-19 and the U.S. economy

An Assessment of State Laws Providing Gubernatorial Authority to Remove Legal Barriers to Emergency Response

State Lawmakers Defy Governors in a Covid-Era Battle for Power

Experts Think The Economy Would Be Stronger If COVID-19 Lockdowns Had Been More Aggressive

New Thinking on Covid Lockdowns: They’re Overly Blunt and Costly

Cal Bigari

Owner/Organizer

Salon Benders


Harriet Hageman

Senior Litigation Counsel

New Civil Liberties Alliance


Leslie Jacobs

Director, Capital Center for Law & Policy Justice and Anthony M. Kennedy Professor of Law

University of the Pacific


Jessie Santiago

Co-Owner

Salon Benders


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