Embattled New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was reported to have launched America's first COVID-19 vaccine passport system.
The Christian Headlines reported on Monday that the controversial governor has recently launched the digital passport called "Excelsior Pass" in partnership with IBM.
On the other hand, the Christian Post said the virtual passport would be able to prove if a person has been vaccinated already along with showing the negative result of a person's recent COVID-19 test. CP said downloading the app is free and signing up to the passport system is voluntary.
Cuomo, according to a March 26 news item in the state's website, launched Excelsior Pass "to help fast-track reopening of businesses and entertainment venues statewide." The sharing of COVID-19 vaccination and test results would still be "in accordance with New York State Guidelines," particularly that of the 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 during the launching as per the news item.
"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 added.
The March 26 news item explained that Excelsior Pass works like a "mobile airline boarding pass" that allows a person to enter the premises of an establishment using one's smartphone where the Excelsior Pass Wallet app is installed via a "secure QR code." The QR code is then read by the participating establishment's scanner that verifies the person's "COVID-19 negative test results or proof of vaccination."
The state envisions the Excelsior Pass to be used by New Yorkers in various establishments such as arenas, theaters, major stadiums and during catered events, wedding receptions, and other events in compliance with the state's health guidelines.
According to the news item, the participating establishments for the initial launch involve those in the Madison Square Garden and the Times Union Center. Additional locations will be added as soon as the program expands, especially since the government invites businesses the freedom to "opt in" to the program and also provides the resources to learn about it. The state assures, New Yorkers that the system will keep all of the person's data "secure and confidential at all times."
"The reopening of key economic activities in New York State, such as arts and entertainment venues, stadiums and arenas, and weddings and catered events, will require proof of a vaccine or negative test for attendees. Excelsior Pass is a digital ecosystem that enables individuals to store digital proof of test results and/or vaccine status and businesses and venues to verify these items without accessing personal health data," the website's Business Page for the Excelsior Pass explained.
Alongside the Excelsior Pass, Cuomo has also launched the "Roll Up Your Sleeve" campaign on Monday to encourage the New Yorkers aged 16 above to get vaccinated beginning April 7. The state has already administered 117,418 doses of the vaccine, reaching 1.4 million doses administered in the past week as of Monday, April 5. This translates to 20.7% New Yorkers with completed vaccines. New York has already expanded eligibility for the vaccines.
New York is the first state to launch a vaccine passport in the country. While leaders such as Gov. Cuomo present it as a tool that can help control the spread of the virus, critics such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis see it as another means to control people's movement.
"It's completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof of vaccine to just simply be able to participate in normal society," DeSantis said, as per NPR.