ACLU of Northern California's Response to the COVID-19 Crisis

The COVID-19 global pandemic is an unprecedented crisis. In an effort to stop the spread of the highly contagious and deadly virus, public health officials and lawmakers have put into place extraordinary measures to protect the health and safety of Californians.

Both here in California and nationwide, we are confronting a range of civil liberties issues and challenges due to the state of emergency. The ACLU of Northern California is monitoring the situation to ensure that our government’s response is rooted in science and no more intrusive upon civil liberties than absolutely necessary.

We are also working to ensure that government actors craft a response that does not create disproportionate harm to vulnerable populations, particularly communities of color, which have been hit hardest by the contagion.

To date, we have sent dozens of letters (with more to come) to government officials about civil rights issues arising from COVID-19 and the response to it. We are following up on those letters to hold officials accountable. Most recently, we and our partners filed a lawsuit seeking the release of detained immigrants who are at risk of a potentially fatal COVID-19 infection because of their age and serious medical conditions. As of April 15, eight of the original plaintiffs had been ordered released.

On this page, you will find information about the ACLU’s response to COVID-19, including news updates, blog posts, guidelines, and letters to public officials – as well as other resources. We will update this page as the situation develops. See below for more resources:

Protecting Our Rights

On March 19, 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a shelter-in-place order for the state. The measure is clearly an enormous curtailment of our individual civil liberties. Nonetheless, these measures have overwhelming support from local and national public health experts to help secure our collective well-being. In the midst of these unprecedented times, the ACLU of Northern California will remain on the alert for instances where restrictions issued to protect public health are not being enforced equitably. We will continue to sound the alarm about policies that put specific populations at extreme risk. We have addressed many of these issues in letters to various government actors asking that they consider and take action to protect vulnerable communities. These requests are likely to continue and will be closely tethered to the current COVID-19 crisis.