In your face: Can the government make you wear a mask?

Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Amazon Associate Yesenia Ramirez stocks a panel that holds face masks for employees. Amazon has taken steps to combat the coronavirus and safeguard the health of the workers at their CHA1 fulfillment center.

Even in America, the "land of the free," government can require that citizens wear face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus - a move many states and local governments are considering as new COVID-19 cases continue to swell in areas across the country.

Zack Buck, an associate professor at the University of Tennessee College of Law, said even though the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land, states have broad authority to intervene and issue mandates in certain circumstances such as public health emergencies.

"It's a steep hill to climb for someone to challenge that," Buck said, adding that courts have frequently upheld rules that limit constitutional rights as long as they're limited in scope.

"Even if it were found that someone had a constitutional right to be free of masks, the state can still reasonably restrict constitutional rights in the name of safety," he said.

Examples