To slow the spread of COVID-19, states and municipalities began issuing “stay at home” or “shelter-in-place” orders in March, 2020. The current restrictions vary widely. Some orders strictly prohibit gatherings, punishable with jail time, while other locality and state orders are mere recommendations. Some orders are issued by state executives such as governors, while others are issued by public health agencies. No order currently makes explicit mention of First Amendment activity as either banned or allowed as an essential activity. For example, the New Hampshire stay-at-home orders were challenged in court as violating the First Amendment, and the court upheld the order, noting that it had a sunset clause and also that the issue could be re-approached later. At the time of this writing, we are still witnessing the adaptation of protest methods to the evolving health crisis.
The NLG published an in-depth discussion of these issues as well as other resources on its website: NLG Statement on COVID-19: Solidarity in Times of Crisis.