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Attorney General Bill Barr at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., in March: Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Attorney General Bill Barr issued a memo Monday directing Department of Justice prosecutors to act against state or local authorities imposing lockdown measures that "could be violating the constitutional rights and civil liberties of individual citizens."

What they're saying: "If a state or local ordinance crosses the line from an appropriate exercise of authority to stop the spread of COVID-19 into an overbearing infringement of constitutional and statutory protections, the Department of Justice may have an obligation to address that overreach in federal court," the memo states.

"Many policies that would be unthinkable in regular times have become commonplace in recent weeks, and we do not want to unduly interfere with the important efforts of state and local officials to protect the public. But the Constitution is not suspended in times of crisis. We must therefore be vigilant to ensure its protections are preserved, at the same time that the public is protected."
— Barr memo, titled "Balancing Public Safety with the Preservation of Civil Rights"

The big picture: Barr said in an interview with radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt last Tuesday the DOJ would take legal action against leaders who "impinge on either civil rights or on the national commerce" with stay-at-home orders are "disturbingly close to house arrest."

  • "If we think one goes too far, we initially try to jawbone the governors into rolling them back or adjusting them," he told Hewitt. "If they're not and people bring lawsuits, we file statement of interest and side with the plaintiffs."
  • The DOJ did just that in a Mississippi case, resulting in the local mayor reversing a drive-in churches ban.

Go deeper: In photos: Groups protest coronavirus lockdowns across the U.S.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with details of the new DOJ directive.

Go deeper

Updated Aug 11, 2020 - Health

N.Y., N.J. and Conn. to require travelers from 31 states to quarantine

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Travelers from 31 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are now required to quarantine for 14 days when traveling to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

What's new: Hawaii, South Dakota and the Virgin Islands were added to the travel advisory list on Tuesday, while Alaska, Ohio, New Mexico and Rhode Island were removed, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

Updated Oct 7, 2020 - Health

World coronavirus updates

Expand chart
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand now has active no coronavirus cases in the community after the final six people linked to the Auckland cluster recovered, the country's Health Ministry confirmed in an email Wednesday.

The big picture: The country's second outbreak won't officially be declared closed until there have been "no new cases for two incubation periods," the ministry said. Auckland will join the rest of NZ in enjoying no domestic restrictions from late Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, declaring that NZ had "beat the virus again."

Updated Aug 6, 2020 - Technology

Facebook, Twitter take down Trump post saying kids are immune to coronavirus

Photo: NurPhoto/Getty Images

Facebook removed a video post from President Trump Wednesday in which he claimed in an interview with Fox News that children are "almost immune" to COVID-19.

Why it matters: It’s the first time that Facebook has removed content from Trump's account for violating policies on coronavirus-related misinformation.