Staten Island Councilman Joe Borelli is suing New York City over the school system’s reduced in-person instruction during the pandemic, claiming in court documents that “New York has reached herd immunity regarding COVID-19, and deaths have significantly declined” and that schools need to reopen completely.

Borelli’s class-action lawsuit against Mayor Bill de Blasio, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, Health Commissioner Dr. David Chokshi, and the City of New York, was joined by five other Staten Island parents and filed in Richmond County State Supreme Court Wednesday.

Borelli’s lawsuit claims the city is violating the state’s constitution guaranteeing a right to a quality education by operating under the blended-learning model and following federal recommendations on social distancing and mask-wearing: “Defendants now are either reopening schools with substantial restrictions the safety, necessity, and effectiveness of which they have not demonstrated (and which, in fact, carry significant risk of harm) and/or they are again subjecting children to isolating and ineffective remote learning, putting children at risk for further academic stagnation or loss of skills and giving rise to significant mental health risks,” the lawsuit said.

“It's a completely fragmented type of education,” said lawyer Louis Gelorminon, who represents the plaintiffs.

Borelli did not answer a phone call and a request for comment via text Thursday. He filed the lawsuit in his capacity as a parent of a public school student -- meanwhile, as listed in his most recent conflict of interest forms, his wife is a substitute teacher for the DOE.

“This is a petty distraction from real news: the nation’s largest school system is open for in-person learning, and students in every grade are receiving high-quality instruction five days a week,” said Department of Education spokesperson Danielle Filson in a statement. “The percent of positive tests at schools has been very low, and our safety protocols are specifically designed to continue to keep the risk at bay and to align with guidance issued by federal, state and local health experts. We will review the suit.”

The idea that herd immunity against COVID-19 is feasible in a community, as the lawsuit is claiming for New York, is not based on current science. NYC health officials have stressed that there is no evidence of herd immunity in the city. Last week, a group of scientists wrote in the Lancet medical journal about the uncertainty surrounding reinfections.

"It is unclear how long protective immunity lasts, and, like other seasonal coronaviruses, SARS-CoV-2 is capable of re-infecting people who have already had the disease, but the frequency of re-infection is unknown," they said.

Other dubious claims in Borelli’s lawsuit include a claim citing the conservative publication Washington Examiner that “the mortality rate for children, young adults and those up to 45 years of age is mathematically nearly zero percent.” In New York City, there were 765 confirmed deaths of people between the ages of 0-45 out of 19,299 deaths, or 3.9 percent of the total mortality rate, according to the DOH. The DOH estimates another 146 probable deaths from COVID-19 in that age range as well.

“There is also no evidence to support the idea that wearing masks is beneficial and that it reduces death from covid-19,” Borelli’s lawsuit said. The CDC has urged mask wearing while in group settings such as classrooms, saying “cloth face coverings are a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19 that could reduce the spread of the disease.”

In September, Borelli also led a rally with Councilmember Steven Matteo against the DOE’s mandatory random testing of students at school for in-person learning:

DOE Scrambles To Determine What Schools Can Reopen Around COVID Cluster Zones

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday that he was relaxing restrictions in several COVID cluster zones, allowing schools to reopen in many areas that have been on lockdown for two weeks. But it took the rest of the day for city officials to get details on which specific schools could reopen, and the Department of Education did not receive updated cluster zone boundaries from the state until six hours after Cuomo’s announcement.

Parents, principals and politicians said that lack of coordination once again caused unnecessary confusion and angst for families.

The governor announced the most recent changes to the cluster zones at his 11:30 am press conference on Wednesday. But schools chancellor Richard Carranza said the education department did not receive maps with the new boundaries from the state until around 6:15 pm that night.

At the monthly meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy, Carranza said staff members were still scrutinizing maps in order to alert principals about what schools would reopen.

“It doesn’t tell us what schools are in those boundaries or which schools were now one color and are now another color,” he said. “That’s the kind of work right now my colleagues are doing school by school … to make sure when we put that information out we’re not putting our principals in a spot where they’re going to give [wrong] information to their communities.”

“We’re not hoarding this information and not providing it,” he said. “We’re working around the clock.”

Principals got notices with updated maps in their inboxes shortly after midnight but the education department has not yet released a full list of reopening schools.

Cuomo’s October 6th directive closed about 124 schools at 169 locations (some schools have multiple campuses, and some buildings hold multiple schools) in the red and orange zones in Brooklyn and Queens. Schools in yellow zones can stay open but are required to test 20 percent of the in-person population for COVID-19 on a weekly basis.

Parents and local leaders said it’s time for the state and the city to get on the same page faster.

“The closures seemed arbitrary and felt disruptive as kids got shuffled between classes and our school was forced to shift teachers and schedules,” said Sarah Whitlock, a parent at P.S. 139 in Ditmas Park, which had been in the orange zone but will now reopen on Monday. “We have no real idea if this will happen again and have to constantly be prepared to read about it in [the] local news before we’re informed by our school.”

“My constituents and families in my district deserve clearer info and we have to fight to get it,” said Councilmember Justin Brannan. “It’s frustrating.”