Late last month, an unusual vending machine appeared in New York City. Passersby stopped, took photos, and peered into the machine, which is located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, near the Williamsburg Bridge.
It’s the first PPE vending machine in New York, a natural move born out of the coronavirus crisis. Wedged between two glass windows of a vacant storefront at 156 Delancey Street, the machine offers KN95-type masks for $4 each.
Face-mask vending machines have common been in Beijing for years, though they were more geared toward air pollution concerns until recently. China’s eastern city of Xuzhou launched a mask machine on 2 March, allowing locals to purchase two N95 masks every day with their ID cards.
On 2 April, 52 vending machines across Vienna’s subway stations were stocked with disposable 3M face masks. A mask machine recently launched in Kyiv, Ukraine, too, as well as in the Czech Republic and the Turkish city of Izmir.
Taipei launched its first PPE vending machine on 10 April, an effort of the local city government, the ministry of health and the central health insurance agency. To align with anti-hoarding efforts, the machines limit the quantity through each person’s health card, which must be swiped for each purchase.
In Berlin, a mask machine appeared on 27 April, the same day it became a requirement for residents to wear face coverings in public. The machine sits inside the Turmstrasse metro station in the Moabit district.
And airports are also catching on. McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas is the first airport in the US to offer PPE equipment via vending machines. On 13 May, the airport authority installed two machines selling hand sanitizer, alcohol wipes and face masks, ranging from $4.25 to $14.50. It’s apt timing, considering many airlines have now made it a necessary precaution for passengers to wear masks on flights.
“We want to make sure we have the things people feel confident to fly again,” says Joe Rajchel, a spokesperson for the airport. “Travel is changing, so are travel habits, hopefully this would help.”