ESRT Allows Tenants to Skip COVID Screenings With State Vaccination Passport

Some office landlords are unsure about rolling out its use in their portfolios because it only works for people vaccinated in New York state

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Empire State Realty Trust will allow tenants and visitors to use New York state’s vaccine passport, the Excelsior Pass, to skip traditional COVID-19 screening procedures at ESRT properties.

But the passport has a ways to go before it’s commonplace with Manhattan landlords, because it only works for in-state residents.

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Starting Wednesday, any ESRT tenant or visitor can use the Excelsior Pass as proof that they are vaccinated against the coronavirus, allowing a person to skip procedures like temperature checks and completing a questionnaire. The rollout will cover ESRT’s 10.1 million square feet in the state and nine Manhattan properties, including the iconic Empire State Building.

The Empire State Building’s observatory is even hosting an exclusive event for vaccinated pass holders on June 13 and offering maskless access to its observatories from June 10 through June 26 at select times.

“New York is coming back from COVID-19 stronger than ever and we thank Governor [Andrew] Cuomo for his leadership,” said Anthony Malkin, CEO and president of ESRT, in a statement. “We are honored to work with the state to support Excelsior Pass through special events at the Empire State Building Observatory, as well as at all of our New York State office properties, as a critical tool to get people back to work — and fun.”  

But the Excelsior Pass, the only government-issued vaccine passport in the United States, can only be used by people who have been vaccinated in the state of New York, according to The New York Times. The pass appears as a QR code in an app on your smartphone or as a printable piece of paper that indicates a person’s vaccine status. 

The state says that about 2 million Excelsior Passes have been issued since its launch in March, and just over 9.4 million city dwellers have been fully vaccinated.

But the accessibility of the Excelsior Pass was an obstacle for the Durst Organization from rolling it out in its portfolio — which includes 1 World Trade Center — because it wouldn’t work for their Connecticut or New Jersey office workers, a representative told Commercial Observer. 

Other landlords — including SL Green Realty Corp., RXR Realty and Tishman Speyer — have been mum about using the pass and didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, state officials are hoping that the passport will catch on more widely, though several states — including Georgia, Alabama, Arizona and Florida — have banned the use of vaccination passports, NYT reported.

And New Yorkers can use alternate forms of vaccination proof, like another mobile application or their paper vaccine card at any business or venue, which must be accepted as a form of vaccination proof any place that accepts the Excelsior Pass, according to the state’s website and NYT.