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Coronavirus and the Constitution III: Shutdown Lawsuits, Testing, and Contact Tracing

Three months into the pandemic, things are opening back up in fits and starts, with legal challenges about lingering shutdowns that may no longer be justified as well as other shutdowns that were always on dubious legal grounds. Conventional wisdom is that we could get things moving quicker if we had broader testing programs and more‐​ambitious contact tracing. But can the government—federal, state, or local—force you to get tested before you can go to certain places or participate in certain activities? Can it make you wear a mask whenever you go outside? Can private businesses require temperature testing at the door and masks inside? For that matter, can the government work with technology companies or force you to download an app to track your phone and make sure you’re following distancing guidelines? Whether digital or analog, what kinds of powers can contact tracers have and how does all of this relate to your Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures? Does contact tracing even work when there’s community spread, and how does that affect the constitutional analysis? Please join FTC Commissioner Christine Wilson and Cato scholars Matthew Feeney and Ilya Shapiro for an online forum to discuss these and other issues.

Christine Wilson
Ilya Shapiro

Ilya Shapiro is a vice president of the Cato Institute, director of the Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies, and publisher of the Cato Supreme Court Review.