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NY launches Covid-19 pass to fast-track return to live

Madison Square Garden in New York City and the Times Union Center in Albany will be the first major venues to utilise the Excelsior Pass

By IQ on 29 Mar 2021

Madison Square Garden, New York

Madison Square Garden will start using the Excelsior Pass this week

image © Wikimedia Commons/Ajay Suresh

New York has become the first US state to launch a digital Covid-19 pass that shows citizens’ vaccination status and test results, in an effort to help venues welcome larger groups.

Madison Square Garden (cap. 20,789) in New York City and the Times Union Center (cap. 17,500) in Albany are among the major venues that have already announced they will begin to utilise the Excelsior Pass in the coming weeks.

Smaller arts, entertainment and event venues will be able to use the Excelsior Pass from 2 April.

The pass can either be printed out or stored on smartphones using the Excelsior Pass Wallet app. Each pass will have a secure QR code, which participating businesses and venues can scan using a companion app to verify proof of Covid-19 negative test results or proof of vaccination.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the launch of the Excelsior Pass, developed in partnership with IBM, on Friday (26 March).

“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,” said governor Cuomo.

“The Excelsior Pass will play an important role in allowing people to gather safely, which will be critical to NY’s recovery”

“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,” he said.

James Dolan, executive chairman, MSG Sports and executive chairman and CEO, MSG Entertainment, says: “We are grateful the state is focused on doing everything possible to reopen businesses across our region safely and quickly. The Excelsior Pass will play an important role in allowing people to gather safely, which will be critical to New York’s recovery. We were proud to be part of the Excelsior Pass pilot and look forward to participating in the programme.”

Madison Square Garden (MSG) was part of the pilot programme to test the Excelsior Pass.

The initial phase of the pilot took place during a Brooklyn Nets game at Barclays Center (cap. 19,000) on 27 February and was tested for a second time during a New York Rangers game at MSG on 2 March.

Following that, major stadiums and arenas in New York were permitted to reopen with a capacity of 10% from 23 February, using guidelines based on the testing programme.

Similar ‘vaccine passports’ are already being developed, or are under consideration, in a number of European Union countries, including Sweden, Denmark, Poland, the Czech Republic and Cyprus.

An EU-wide vaccine passport that could replace the piecemeal approach currently being pursued by individual member states, was put forward last week.


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