x
Breaking News
More () »

Greensboro's Leading Local News: Weather, Traffic, Sports and more | Greensboro, North Carolina | WFMYNEWS2.com

Can President-elect Joe Biden enact a nationwide lockdown?

A law professor shared what a president can and can't do regarding a nationwide lockdown.

Editor's Note: The attached video is a Verify story that examines claims about election fraud.

A member of President-elect Joe Biden's COVID-19 task force turned heads this week when he recommended a nationwide lockdown.

"We could lockdown for four-to-six weeks and if we did that, we could drive the numbers down like they did in Asia, like they did in New Zealand and Australia," Dr. Michael Osterholm said.

Some have wondered whether a president has the power to lock down the entire United States.

It doesn't sound like it, according to Enrique Armijo, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Law at Elon University School of Law.

"In the United States' system of federalism, the power to take actions for public safety emergencies generally lies with states and localities," Armijo said. "The federal government doesn’t really have the authority or police force to implement and enforce a nationwide lockdown."

A president does have the power to take other nationwide actions, like closing the borders, to slow the spread of the virus, according to Armijo.

"This is the power that President Trump used to limit travel to and from countries outside of the United States," Armijo said. "And since the federal government’s power is more focused on conduct between states rather than within states, it can also place restrictions on who can fly, usually through the Federal Aviation Administration."

What would it take to implement a nationwide lockdown?

"The president can’t order a state governor to implement a lockdown to prevent the spread of an infectious disease in that state," Armijo said. "He can, of course, use his powers of persuasion to do so, which is what President-elect Biden has referred to in his plans upon entering office. There is federal law permitting the U.S. government to declare a quarantine in the event of the uncontrolled spread of an infectious disease."

Armijo said the only large-scale federal quarantines were during the Spanish Flu in 1918-19.