This paper outlines governors’ powers to combat public health emergencies, and then analyzes specific measures taken by the states in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. State powers to quarantine, isolate, and take other measures to protect the public health and welfare are well-established, going back to the police power reserved for states in the Tenth Amendment and recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court over one hundred years ago. Additionally, most state constitutions and statutes specifically grant governors authority to take a variety of protective measures during emergencies. While large-scale quarantine and isolation orders have not been previously implemented in the United States, these powers rest comfortably within states’ authority to address public health emergencies.
Maggie Davis, Christine Gentry, Trudy Henson, Calling Their Own Shots: Governors' Emergency Declarations During the COVID-19 Pandemic, 12 ConLawNOW 95 (2020)