‘We are now living in an oligarchy’: NY becomes first state to implement a vaccine passport

Friday, New York became the first state in the nation to launch a “vaccine passport” called the Excelsior Pass which utilizes an app to scan a QR code to verify you have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and allows you to access certain venues.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is crowing over the accomplishment, promoting the new digital pass on Twitter. You can either prove your vaccination status via your phone or a printout, but vaccination proof is now going to be required in New York.

Cuomo announced in a press release: “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.”

“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. An individual’s data is kept secure and confidential at all times,” he added.

(Video Credit: ABC News)

New Yorkers will need to enter some personal information to confirm their identity before downloading the app. The “vaccine passport” proves they have either tested negative for the virus or have been vaccinated. Right now, it expires every 30 days and is reportedly only applicable if you get vaccinated in New York.

USA Today broke the story: “The data will come from the state’s vaccine registry and also will be linked to testing data from a number of pre-approved testing companies.” The passport will allow entry into events, businesses, and venues, and “already enables people to increase the size of a wedding party or other catered event.”

The app won’t display any health information when scanned. A green checkmark will display if the individual has received a vaccination or has tested negative. Alternatively, a red “x” will be seen if the person hasn’t.

Many are concerned about their privacy and data security surrounding this program. And the messaging is confusing as the state’s website states the following: “Once you and your party enter an establishment, you will still be asked to follow State and CDC guidance regarding social distancing, face coverings, and hand hygiene.”

The app utilizes blockchain technology and encryption to ensure personal information is stored securely. The system was reportedly configured using IBM’s digital health pass platform.

New York City’s Madison Square Garden and the Times Union Center in Albany will be among the major venues that will start using the app next week. On April 2, Excelsior Pass will start being used at “smaller arts, entertainment and event venues,” Cuomo’s office announced.

“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,” Cuomo stated.

“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,” Cuomo boasted.

Requiring vaccination “is not something we have done before within this country outside of school systems and hospitals,” said historian and ethicist Amy Fairchild, dean of Ohio State University. She noted, “it would be incredibly useful from a public health standpoint and could eventually be expanded to cover flu and measles shots – if public opinion would allow it. To the extent that it could be used to help build up our public health infrastructure, that would be fabulous.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) has adamantly stated that “vaccine passports” are a hard ‘no’ in his state: “The vaccine passport is a terrible idea. We are definitely not going to offer anything from the state perspective. That is totally off the table.” Other states share similar sentiments concerning the abridgment of constitutional rights.

Twitter users were alarmed by New York’s precedent-setting move:

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