New experts named for lawsuit challenging school mask rules
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — An epidemiologist and a child psychiatrist who say wearing masks is harmful to children are the new expert witnesses in a lawsuit challenging Connecticut’s mask requirements for schools, according to court documents filed Thursday.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit, including parents of schoolchildren and the Connecticut Freedom Alliance, filed disclosures in Hartford Superior Court naming epidemiologist Knut Wittkowski and child psychiatrist Dr. Mark McDonald as their experts.
A judge ordered the plaintiffs to produce new expert witnesses by Thursday, after ruling their original two witnesses — an ophthalmologist and a forensic psychiatrist — were not qualified to testify in support of their claims that masks harm children and do not prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Wittkowski is the founder and chief executive of the biostatistics firm ASDERA, and a former biostatistician and epidemiologist at Rockefeller University in New York. In April, Rockefeller University issued a statement saying Wittkowski’s opinions discouraging social distancing in order to hasten herd immunity to the coronavirus did not represent the views of the school, its leadership or its faculty.
Also earlier this year, YouTube removed a video of Wittkowski in which he advocates for herd immunity, telling the New York Post that it removes content that disputes health authorities’ guidance on social distancing.
McDonald is a child psychiatrist based in Los Angeles who was one of hundreds of doctors to sign a letter to President Donald Trump in May warning how virus-related shutdowns harm people’s health in terms of suicide, alcoholism and other problems.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction that would strike down requirements set by Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont and the state Department of Education that children must wear masks in school. A hearing on the emergency request is set to continue Oct. 14 before Judge Thomas Moukawsher.
The state argues that it is following federal guidelines and that studies show masks are important in helping prevent the virus from traveling into the air and spreading from one person to another.
State Attorney General William Tong’s office said in a statement Thursday that is reviewing the disclosures of the new experts and will file any necessary response with the court.
Doug Dubitsky, a lawyer for the plaintiffs and a Republican state representative from Chaplin, said the two new experts are highly qualified to testify in support of the lawsuit’s assertions that masks aren’t effective and can harm children.
“Over the last 40 years or so there have been multiple studies on the effectiveness of masks in the transmission of diseases and they almost universally show they just don’t work,” Dubitsky said in a phone interview Thursday.
He said studies have shown children can develop a variety of conditions from wearing masks including nasal infections, tooth infections, panic attacks, breathing problems and acne. He said many parents have pulled their children out of school because of mask-related problems.