It's been more than a year since pandemic-related restrictions were imposed on public gathering spaces and events. 

And as the vaccination rate slowly creeps upward in New York and around the country, state officials have introduced an app to ease entry into public events for people who have been vaccinated or have recently tested negative for COVID-19. 

The app is called the "Excelsior Pass," but similar proposals, including one on the federal level by the Biden administration, have been called "vaccine passports."

While it could hasten a nascent reopening and return life to some semblance of normal, it's also raising privacy and civil liberties concerns. 

At the same time, the app could further drive a wedge between those in society who have access to a vaccine or easy COVID-19 testing and those who do not, as well as those who for health reasons are unable to get the shot. 

"I don't think it's necessary in any way to sacrifice the security of one's personal information to achieve safety in public venues," said Republican Sen. Mike Martucci.

For now, it's not clear how necessary the app will be to attend events like concerts or a play on Broadway or other large gatherings. Guidance from state officials will be necessary, Martucci said. 

"Right now, our businesses are already spending a tremendous amount of time and energy and struggle to operate successfully," he said. "So the least this state can do to help our struggling businesses is be crystal clear on that on that guidance." 

At Proctors Theater in Schenectady, CEO Philip Morris says he's also waiting to see what the state says as well. 

"It's up to the guidance of the state," Morris said. "We're going to follow the state's lead on this. Right now, the state's lead is for very small places and we're not able to open with that anyway."

And while the Excelsior app requires a smartphone, Morris says he's comfortable with people verifying their vaccinations the old fashion way. 

"I would be fine with someone coming into our theater, assuming it's required, and saying, ‘here's my evidence,’" he said, pulling his vaccination card out of his pocket. 

NYCLU Policy Counsel Allie Bohm agrees there are more questions than answers now, especially the need for an analogue version of confirmation. But she says the first priority should be to boost vaccinations, especially for vulnerable populations and communities of color. 

And it's not yet clear how long some of these procedures could remain in place after the pandemic finally ends. 

"Until we have had a chance to make sure everyone has the opportunity to be vaccinated if they so desire, it's really challenging to erect barriers in society," she said. 

So far, about 18% of New Yorkers have been fully vaccinated. 

"I think all of us yearn for a return to normal," Bohm said, but added, "But there's a huge access issue."