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New York Launches First Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Passport


(Photo via Gov. Andrew Cuomo/New York State)

New Yorkers can now tap into a digital “passport” to prove they’ve been vaccinated against or recently tested negative for COVID-19.

The Empire State’s first-of-its-kind platform, dubbed Excelsior Pass, was developed in partnership with IBM to confirm a recent negative PCR or antigen test result or proof of vaccination. Think of it like a mobile airline boarding pass: You may choose to carry a printed copy, or store a digital version in your smartphone using the Excelsior Pass Wallet app. Each document features a secure QR code for businesses and venues to scan.

“New Yorkers have proven they can follow public health guidance to beat back COVID, and 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,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

Excelsior Pass

Photo via Gov. Andrew Cuomo/New York State

The pass will help individuals gain entry into New York theaters, stadiums and arenas, wedding receptions, catered events, and other social gatherings. Major venues like Manhattan’s Madison Square Garden and the Times Union Center in Albany have already registered interest; from April 2, Excelsior Pass will expand to smaller arts, entertainment, and event locales.

“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,” according to Cuomo.

Powered by IBM’s Digital Health Pass solution, the platform promises secure verification of test results and vaccination records—without sharing underlying medical and personal data. Plus, the flexible technology is built to scale, making it easy to roll out in more states. Following two successful pilot demonstrations and a limited beta test, Excelsior Pass launched on Friday with an accompanying mobile wallet for users and a scanner app downloadable by businesses.

Cuomo also recently announced the expansion of the New York Forward Rapid Test Program, which makes low-cost rapid testing available to the public. Results are shared with the State Department of Health’s Electronic Clinical Laboratory Reporting System, enabling integration with Excelsior Pass.

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