The Constitution and the Coronavirus – We The People

Lesson Duration

The National Constitution Center

In this 55 minute podcast, host Jeffrey Rosen and public health law experts examine the history of quarantines prior to and during the Founding era to explain how the government combatted diseases. Using examples of public health responses to outbreaks from yellow fever and the 1918 influenza pandemic through the AIDS epidemic and SARS, they answer questions including: What restrictions can government authorities enact under the Constitution during a pandemic? How do the powers of state and federal governments interact during emergency scenarios? What legal and constitutional rights do Americans maintain? What are the responsibilities of citizens? 

Transcript included. 

U.S. Supreme Court cases referenced:

  • Gibbons v. Ogden (1824)
  • Ex parte Milligan (1866)
  • Morgan’s Steamship Co. vs Louisiana Board of Health (1886)
  • Compagnie Francaise de Navigation a Vapeur v. Louisiana Board of Health (1902)
  • Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905)
  • Korematsu v. United States (1944)
  • Youngstown Sheet and Tube Co. v. Sawyer (1952)


The National Constitution Center