NY launches ‘Excelsior Pass’ to prove COVID-19 vaccinations, tests

The state of New York has launched the Excelsior Pass, a cellphone app that will give residents another way to prove they’ve been vaccinated or have recently tested negative for COVID-19.

The launch of the voluntary app, which was developed in collaboration with IBM, was announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday, March 26.

The Excelsior Pass is similar to a digital airline boarding pass. The app has a unique QR code for each person that venue staff and event organizers will be able to scan with their own free app to confirm whether or not the person has been fully vaccinated before letting the person into an event.

The app was built upon IBM’s Digital Health Pass solution, according to the governor’s office. It uses encryption and blockchain technology to ensure each user’s information is secure and private, and user information isn’t stored.

The app is just one form of proof residents can use. Vaccinated residents are given vaccine cards when they receive their first dose, and that paper card can be used, too. A paper version of the Excelsior Pass can also be obtained through epass.ny.gov and printed out. Learn more online.

By confirming attendees are vaccinated or recently tested negative for COVID-19, venues can open to more people for events. As of March 3, arts, entertainment and sports venues have been allowed to open for indoor events with a capacity cap of 100 people. With pre-event screening, the allowable indoor capacity can be up to 150 people. Outdoor events are capped at 150 people, but if there’s pre-event screening, up to 500 people can attend.

Lake Placid Center for the Arts Executive Director James Lemons said part of his venue’s challenge moving forward was validating that audiences are vaccinated or have tested negative.

In the future, patrons of the LPCA may see two lines to get in the door — one for those using the Excelsior Pass app, and another for proof on paper, according to Lemons. That will mean having more event staff.