New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday announced a pilot program to test the Excelsior Pass, a mobile application developed in partnership with IBM which will “use proven, secure technology to confirm an individual’s vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test through a confidential data transfer to help fast-track the reopening of theaters, stadiums, and other businesses in accordance with New York State guidelines.” The pilot testing for the Excelsior Pass has already begun and will continue to take place during upcoming games at Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center in New York City.
As an announcement press release notes, “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.’ Each pass will have a secure QR code, which venues will scan using a companion app to confirm someone’s COVID health status. The results of the pilot program will be used to enhance the quality of the application, maximizing return on investment and saving development time, prior to submission to Apple and Google for approval to go into their app stores.”
“We’re 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,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement. “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.”
In response to the announcement of the Excelsior Pass pilot program, Madison Square Garden Entertainment, which owns and operates MSG and other NYC venues, issued the following statement:
We applaud Governor Cuomo’s leadership in reopening New York. The Excelsior Pass program, along with his decision to allow venues to begin welcoming fans, will play important roles in helping to get our City back on its feet.
As part of major stadium and arena reopening guidelines announced by the Governor on February 10th, venues must currently ensure that all staff and spectators receive a negative COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours of the event. During this pilot program, a subset of predetermined participants will be able to use the pass to confirm their recent negative COVID-19 test and gain entry to these events at Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden. While the app is currently in the pilot testing phase as dictated by the present COVID-19 protocols, if it is found to be successful, it will likely be scaled up to accommodate full-capacity audiences as they begin to return this year.
While some businesses have been able to operate by reducing capacity or by having their employees work from home, many others, like performing arts and sporting events with fans, have only just been able to re-open under strict health and safety guidelines. As more New Yorkers are being vaccinated, these activities will be permitted to resume in accordance with new public health guidelines, and the state government hopes that the Excelsior Pass mobile app can help to further speed up the reopening of these venues.
On Wednesday, the state government reportedly furthered that prospect with the announcement that concerts, plays, and other live performances may resume in the state—with significantly reduced capacities—starting next month, extending to smaller venues the same permissions recently granted to large venues like MSG and Barclays. Per The New York Times, Cuomo said in a news conference from Albany that “arts, entertainment and events venues can reopen April 2 at 33 percent capacity, with a limit of up to 100 people indoors or 200 people outdoors, and a requirement that all attendees wear masks and be socially distanced.”
Cuomo also reportedly announced that the aforementioned capacity limits would be increased—to 150 people indoors or 500 people outdoors—if the venues are able to “test all attendees.” In theory, the new Excelsior Pass would be able to help venues manage that daunting task.
The idea behind the Excelsior Pass being tested in New York is similar to a potential testing/vaccine verification project floated by Ticketmaster late last year as a potential means to return to full-capacity live events.
New York lawmakers are also working on various initiatives to kickstart the arts in the interim. Cuomo’s reopening of arenas and venues in New York came after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced the city’s “Open Culture” initiative, which will open up to 115 designated streets in all five NYC boroughs to be used for ticketed performing arts events throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Cuomo also announced the state’s plans for a NY PopsUp statewide arts festival, featuring over 300 performances from a variety of artists over 100 days beginning February 20th and continuing through Labor Day.
Check out some images of Excelsior Pass here.