New York is launching its own version of a “COVID passport,” to help track who is vaccinated or COVID-free as businesses and event venues begin to reopen fully.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Friday announced the launch of the Excelsior Pass, a free service developed in partnership with IBM that can confirm an individuals COVID-19 test results or vaccination status.

“The innovative Excelsior Pass is another tool in our new toolbox to fight the virus while allowing more sectors of the economy to reopen safely and keeping personal information secure,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement announcing the program. “The question of ‘public health or the economy’ has always been a false choice — the answer must be both. As more New Yorkers get vaccinated each day and as key public health metrics continue to regularly reach their lowest rates in months, the first-in-the-nation Excelsior Pass heralds the next step in our thoughtful, science-based reopening.”

The system has two sides — a pass, with a unique QR code, that indicates if an individual has received a negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test, or their full set of vaccination shots, and a scanner app that can read those QR codes and determine their validity. Individuals can either print their Excelsior Pass codes, or store digital versions of the pass in a special “wallet” app on their smart phones.

Individuals should also present a photo ID, with name and birthday, to prove the pass is theirs.

Both the scanner and the wallet are available as free downloads on the Apple iOS App Store and the Android Google Play store. Both are only compatible with smart phones.

According to the governor, all health and personal information in the Excelsior Pass system will be stored securely and confidentially.

Those interested in receiving a pass can sign up at epass.ny.gov. To be eligible, an individual cannot have tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 10 days. Passes will be given to those who have been fully vaccinated in New York state if it has been 14 days or more since their final shot, or those who have received a traditional COVID-19 test with a negative result within the last 3 days.

People who have taken an antigen test, which tests for antibodies that fight off COVID-19, can receive a pass if they’ve gotten a test with a negative result within the previous 6 hours.

It’s currently unclear what providers will agree to submit verification information for the Excelsior Pass. Users on social media have noted that vaccinations or test results from the federal government or non-New York state providers are not currently being accepted by the service.

Any business can begin using the service now, but the governor specifically highlighted entertainment, arts and events as examples of scenarios where the pass should be used. Madison Square Garden arena in New York City and the Times Union Center in Albany are prominent venues that announced they will be participating in the Excelsior Pass in the coming weeks, and smaller venues will begin using it starting April 2.

The pass will also be used to guard access to receptions, weddings, parties or other events that have more people than social gathering limits currently allow.

All participation in the program is voluntary, no businesses or individuals will be required to use it, but the state’s guidance to business owners suggests that they bar entry to anyone without a valid pass or other proof of vaccination or negative test results. Businesses that utilize the service will still be required to enforce social distancing and mask requirements.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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