Paula Chin in COVID-19 on April 1, 2021
As the nation continues to make headway with COVID-19 vaccinations, there’s more good news on the local front: Starting April 2, New Yorkers will be able to pull up a code on their cellphones to prove they’ve been vaccinated or have recently tested negative for the virus. The new vaccine-verification app, Excelsior Pass (often referred to as a digital vaccine passport), will initially be accepted at dozens of event, arts and entertainment venues statewide – and it could also prove to be a valuable tech tool for co-ops and condos amid the ongoing pandemic.
“I think the passport can definitely be useful for boards as an additional measure to protect the health of their residents and workers,” says James Glatthaar, a partner at the law firm Bleakley Platt & Schmidt. “For example, if you have to send staff into someone’s apartment, you’ll have immediate evidence that no one is sick and that they won’t expose anyone to the virus. It eliminates unnecessary risks – and allows for more effective management of the building.”
Michelle Quinn, a partner at the law firm Gallet Dreyer & Berkey, sees other ways vaccine verification can help boards keep their buildings running smoothly. “I think it could certainly be appropriate to require proof from contractors and construction workers, as long as it’s implemented properly,” she says. “Legally, I don't think you can require that your vendors get vaccinated. But if you're saying that in the board's discretion you’ve determined it's in the best interest of the cooperative or condominium to require anyone entering the building to provide proof that they’ve been vaccinated or had a negative COVID-19 test in the last 72 hours, I think that's reasonable.”
As restrictions ease on long-shuttered residential gyms and pools, boards could also use the app to help exercise-starved shareholders and unit-owners resume their workouts with more peace of mind. “I live in a condo in Yonkers,” Quinn says, “and like a lot of buildings you have to have your temperature taken and fill out a form saying you haven’t had any COVID-19 symptoms. This will facilitate more people being able to go back to the gym, or using social rooms when they reopen.”
Glatthaar adds that vaccine verification could be the green light for boards that want to go back to in-person monthly and annual meetings instead of virtual ones.
However boards decide to use the app, Quinn recommends incorporating the new protocols – whether it’s for vendors or visitors – into their governing documents, as well as posting or sending a notice to residents. And boards should remember that vaccine verification is no substitute for existing safety measures such as mask wearing and social distancing. “And the fact is, no one knows if people who have been vaccinated are really bulletproof,” notes C. Jaye Berger, principal at Law Offices C. Jaye Berger in Manhattan.
As with all things tech, there’s the issue of working out the bugs. Users who download the Excelsior app must enter their name, date of birth and ZIP code, then answer a series of personal questions to confirm their identity. They are then issued a personalized code based on data from both the state’s vaccine registry and a number of pre-approved testing companies. “We want to make sure everything works and ensure that the app is accurate,” says Robert Ferrara, president of the Ferrara Management Group. “It’s early in the game, but I think all boards should take advantage of every tool in their toolbox. It only makes sense.”
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