A Way Back to Normalcy: New York’s Excelsior Pass to Grant Access to Vaccinated Individuals

Recently, in light of the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines to the public, we discussed the development and expected use of digital “vaccine passports” on smartphones for use in international travel. A vaccine passport is a digital file that can be held in a smartphone app and used to verify vaccination status while traveling abroad. The legal briefing may be found here.


The use of a vaccine passport was expected to become commonplace, if not required, for international travel because many countries are expected to require vaccination prior to entry. As states and municipalities adjust pandemic guidelines and reduce restrictions on public gatherings, the vaccine passport was projected for domestic travel use as well. Advocates of its use predicted that a vaccine pass would be integrated for use in events such as sporting events, concerts, and conventions.


This prediction has come to fruition. Recently, the State of New York became the first state to develop and launch an application to track COVID-19 vaccination status for the end-user. Named the Excelsior Pass, the application will allow businesses to scan and validate that a customer has tested negative for COVID-19 or is fully vaccinated before allowing entry, thus reducing the chance of spreading the virus. Any person who is vaccinated or tests negative for COVID-19 in New York is eligible to use the pass, however, at this point the use of the Excelsior Pass is voluntary.


The process to use the application is relatively straight forward. Users link their vaccination records or test results to the Excelsior Pass app, which then displays a QR code that can be scanned by businesses and event venues. Individuals can also choose to print out the QR code for verification. All information used is secured via blockchain and other encryption methods, and no private health data is stored. As an added layer of security, users are required to show a second form of ID (such as a driver’s license) alongside the digital pass to verify the health data as their own. Once inside the venue, users will be expected to follow State and CDC guidance regarding social distancing, face coverings, and hand washing.


According to a statement issued by Governor Andrew Cuomo, the technology was developed in conjunction with IBM, and the expectation is that it will help fast-track an economic reopening for concerts, sports events, wedding receptions and other events. According to the state, larger venues like Madison Square Garden in Manhattan and the Times Union Center in Albany will begin using the program in the coming weeks. The pass will expand to smaller events and entertainment venues beginning April 2nd. The governor noted that the Excelsior Pass worked well during the initial pilot phase at a Brooklyn Nets game at the Barclays Center in February. It was successfully tested a second time during a NY Rangers game at Madison Square Garden.


The desire to return to normalcy, and begin hosting events, has motivated some venue owners to encourage visitors to download the app before attending an event. It should be noted again, that use of the app is not mandatory and paper documents showing vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test are still acceptable for entry.

As the use of the applications like Excelsior Pass become more commonplace during the pandemic recovery, business owners will need to decide if this will provide any benefit to their business or will it possibly deter customers who are weary of COVID-19 related restrictions and requirements.


More information about Excelsior Pass may be found here: https://covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/excelsior-pass


If you have any questions about this Legal Briefing, please contact any member of our Firm at (585) 730-4773.

A Way Back to Normalcy - New York’s Exce
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This Legal Briefing is intended for general informational and educational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice or counsel. The substance of this Legal Briefing is not intended to cover all legal issues or developments regarding the matter. Please consult with an attorney to ascertain how these new developments may relate to you or your business. © 2021 Law Offices of Pullano & Farrow PLLC