New York Governor Cuomo has launched ‘Excelsior Pass’ as its means to fast-track the reopening of businesses and entertainment statewide. This is a free, voluntary platform – developed in partnership with IBM – which uses proven, secure technology to confirm an individual’s recent negative PCR or antigen test result or proof of vaccination. It operates with New York State Department of Health guidelines.

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,” Governor Cuomo said.

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.

What is Excelsior Pass?

Excelsior Pass is 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 Wallet app – and an individual’s data is kept secure and confidential at all times.

Each Pass will have a secure QR code. Participating businesses and venues can scan this QR code using a companion app. The objective is to verify proof of COVID-19 negative test results or proof of vaccination.

As part of the initial launch, participating New Yorkers may choose to use Excelsior Pass to verify their COVID-19 vaccination or negative test results to gain entry to gatherings above the social gathering limit – such as:

  • major stadiums and arenas
  • wedding receptions
  • catered events.

Beginning April 2, Excelsior Pass will expand to smaller arts, entertainment and event venues. Several larger venues have also announced they will begin to exploit the pass in coming weeks, including:

  • Madison Square Garden in New York City
  • the Times Union Center in Albany.

The underlying technology and what to do

IBM built Excelsior Pass on its Digital Health Pass solution which is designed to be able to secure verification of health credentials – such as test results and vaccination records – without the need to share underlying medical and personal information. IBM believes its technology is flexible and able to scale.

Multiple security systems are in place to ensure the integrity of such personal health information. The design has an emphasis on equity and equal access. For example, there is:

  • multi-language access
  • a help desk
  • a choice of ways to use the pass (whether you have a smartphone or not).

A significant feature is that the pass is both printable and can complement other types of proof that patrons choose to use. This should reduce any barriers to adoption.  If all the above proves true, this will mean other states can ‘join in’ and thereby foster a safer, trusted transition post-pandemic.

New Yorkers can opt in to use Excelsior Pass (and can learn more here). Businesses can also opt-in (and can learn more here).

New Yorkers can download the Excelsior Pass Wallet app for Android here and for iOS here. Interested businesses can download the Excelsior Pass Scanner app for Android here and for iOS here.

Steve LaFleche, General Manager, IBM Public and Federal Markets, said: “IBM is proud to support the State of New York with its efforts to apply innovative technologies to help residents and communities respond to COVID-19. In choosing a flexible and accessible tool that places security and privacy at its core, the state is modeling for the rest of the country how new, technology-enabled approaches can help safely reinvigorate economies while also striving to protect public health.

Enterprise Times: What does this mean

As is common across most of the COVID-19 affected globe, New Yorkers (and visitors) want to return to some form of normality – which includes work and social events.  The Excelsior Pass offers a route to such a way forward.

The big question, not least for New York State and IBM, is the adoption and acceptance rate – and by customers (individuals) more than businesses. If people do not download and use Excelsior Pass, or if the infrastructure assumptions behind the pass are defective in any way (security, updating with vaccination or test results, etc) the approach will die fast (though be instructive for others).

In this context, the commitment to rapid reporting of COVID-19 test results to the State Department of Health’s Electronic Clinical Laboratory Reporting System (ECLRS) should ensure Excelsior Pass users receive testing results in the required window of time before an event. To that end the following labs have already committed to updating ECLRS:

  • Acutis Diagnostics
  • Aegis Sciences
  • BioReference Laboratories
  • Boston Heart Diagnostics
  • Broad Institute
  • Cayuga Medical Center
  • Clarity Lab Solutions
  • Lenco Diagnostic Laboratories
  • The Mount Sinai Hospital’s Center for Clinical Laboratories
  • Northwell Health
  • Quest Diagnostics
  • Rapid Reliable Testing
  • UR Medicine Labs.

New York State says it continues to work with other labs and rapid testing sites to expand this list. Enterprise Times hopes it will work.


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