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New Yorkers will have to flash ‘COVID-19 passport’ to enter sports arenas and theaters

New Yorkers will have to flash a ‘COVID-19 passport’ showing either a negative test result or a vaccination if they want to enjoy a sporting event or catch a movie under a new pilot program. 

Gov Andrew Cuomo‘s office announced the initiative, which has been dubbed the ‘Excelsior Pass,’ on Tuesday. 

The pass, developed in partnership with IBM, is said to be ‘proven, secure technology [that] will confirm an individual’s vaccination or recent negative COVID test’. 

The initial phase of pilot testing started on February 27 with the Brooklyn Nets game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

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New Yorkers will have to flash a ‘COVID-19 passport’ showing either a negative test result or a vaccination if they want to enjoy a sporting event or catch a movie under a new pilot program. The app for the technology is seen above 

The initial phase of pilot testing started on February 27 with the Brooklyn Nets game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Testing continued on Tuesday night at the New York Rangers game at Madison Square Garden (pictured)

The initial phase of pilot testing started on February 27 with the Brooklyn Nets game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Testing continued on Tuesday night at the New York Rangers game at Madison Square Garden (pictured)

Testing continued on Tuesday night at the New York Rangers game at Madison Square Garden. 

‘Similar to a mobile airline boarding pass, individuals will be able to either print out their pass or store it on their smartphones using the Excelsior Pass’s “Wallet App”,’ a statement from the governor’s office reads. 

Each pass will have a ‘secure QR code, which venues will scan using a companion app to confirm someone’s COVID health status’. 

Cuomo said the state is ‘doing everything we can to vaccinate as many New Yorkers as possible, as quickly as possible, while keeping the infection rate down and reenergizing our economy in a safe, smart way’.

‘As we begin reopening the valves on different sectors of our economy, we are putting guidelines in place to ensure individuals attending events involving larger gatherings have tested negative for COVID or have been vaccinated to avoid an outbreak of the virus. 

‘The Excelsior Pass will play a critical role in getting information to venues and sites in a secure and streamlined way, allowing us to fast-track the reopening of these businesses and getting us one step closer to reaching a new normal,’ he added.  

The technology allows users to 'share their verifiable health pass without exposing any of the underlying data used to generate it'

The technology allows users to ‘share their verifiable health pass without exposing any of the underlying data used to generate it’

According to IBM, the Digital Health Pass is 'designed so that an organization can establish their own criteria - such as COVID-19 test results and temperature scans'

According to IBM, the Digital Health Pass is ‘designed so that an organization can establish their own criteria – such as COVID-19 test results and temperature scans’

IBM’s Digital Health Pass and How it Works

The Excelsior Pass and its companion verification app are built on IBM’s Digital Health Pass solution and is designed to enable the verification of health credentials such as test results and vaccination records. 

Using blockchain technology, individuals will be able to voluntarily share their health status through an encrypted digital wallet on their smartphone without the need to share underlying medical and personal information.  

The technology is flexible and built to scale, allowing other states to join and help foster a safer, trusted transition to a post-pandemic reality.

How is Digital Health Pass designed to work?

Step 1: Issuing organization generates a verifiable credential (test results, etc.) and sends it to the individual

Step 2: Individual receives the credential and loads into their phone so they can share with a verifying organization

Step 3: Verifying organization checks the credential

During his press conference on Wednesday, Cuomo addressed the technology again, saying that the app will be available for download on Google and Apple once it gets approved. 

He also assured New Yorkers that they can download the code on paper, print it and use that instead of their phones. 

Last month, Cuomo announced reopening guidelines for major stadiums and arenas.

In those guidelines, the aforementioned venues must ensure that all staff and spectators receive a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the event. 

Participants of the pilot program were predetermined and were able to use the pass to confirm their recent negative COVID-19 test for the Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden events.

As for security, the governor’s office said robust protections have been woven throughout the digital health pass solution, ‘giving individuals a secure, verifiable and trusted way to maintain control of their personal health information using an encrypted digital smartphone wallet or printed credential’. 

‘User data is always kept completely confidential, and participation is voluntary. The QR code only informs the venue if a pass is valid or invalid,’ Cuomo’s office assured. 

According to IBM, the Digital Health Pass is ‘designed so that an organization can establish their own criteria – such as COVID-19 test results and temperature scans’. 

The technology allows users to ‘share their verifiable health pass without exposing any of the underlying data used to generate it’. 

James Dolan, the CEO of MSG Entertainment, said: ‘We are pleased to partner with the state on this important pilot, which we hope will be another step forward in helping New York City to reopen.’ 

The technology comes as Cuomo gradually eases restrictions in New York City as positivity rates fall.

Limited indoor dining returned on February 12, with restaurants allowed to seat customers indoors at 25 per cent capacity.

Cuomo said theaters will also be allowed to operate at 25 per cent capacity, or up to 50 people per screen, from March 5 – almost exactly a year since they shut.

‘Assigned seating, social distancing and other health precautions will be in place,’ Cuomo wrote on Twitter.


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