As the Philadelphia region wonders what life will be like after the coronavirus shutdown, a New York company says that the new normal could include mask vending machines.
“We recognize for our cities to reopen we’re going to need these masks,” he said. “It’s not that this is your everyday mask. It's a solution for when you’ve gone out and forgotten your cloth mask.”
Edelman and a business partner thought of the idea after they struggled to buy protective masks, he said, and then ended up with a surplus. They installed their first mask vending machine in New York’s Lower East Side last month, he said, and have since expanded to four other locations across New York City. As he talked with a reporter Friday morning, Edelman, 30, was heading to another installation on Coney Island, Brooklyn’s popular summertime destination, in preparation for Memorial Day weekend.
These vending machines operate the same way traditional ones do, he said, but instead of buying snacks or drinks, customers can purchase KN95 masks — the Chinese standard for masks, not the medical-grade respirators used on the front lines of the pandemic.
The machines accept contactless payment, he said, as well as cash and credit cards. While masks currently cost $4 at machines in New York, he said the price will soon drop to $3 per mask because of increased supply.
The initial response been positive, he said.
“People are excited by the machine, and at the same time disappointed that this is where we’re at,” Edelman said. When the machines were installed in New York, “I think it opened peoples’ eyes a bit. This is our new reality. This is how we’re going to get back to work.”
Edelman, who works in property management and development, said he foresees masks being required everywhere from tourist destinations to concert venues to office buildings. With that in mind, he said, he is looking to install the machines in areas with high foot traffic, including at “a very key location” in Philadelphia that he said he couldn’t yet disclose.
While he’s in talks with several cities, including Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, and Detroit, he said he’s hopeful Philadelphia will be RapidMask2Go’s next stop in the Northeast.
A University of Delaware alum, Edelman spent time here during college, and recently developed a greater appreciation for the city’s health-care community. His 2-year-old son, Remy, gets treated for an inflammatory condition at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Because his son is on medicine that compromises his immune system, Edelman hasn’t seen him during the pandemic.
“I have a really soft spot for Philadelphia," he said. “I have insane appreciation for not just the nurses and doctors at CHOP but nurses and doctors everywhere."
Edelman said he plans to work with city officials to determine what approvals or licenses he would need for the machines, depending on whether they are on private or public property.
A spokesperson for the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections said someone would need only a commercial activity license, which can be obtained online for free, to operate a vending machine on private property with the owner’s permission. A City Council ordinance is needed for a machine to be put on public property, a Streets Department spokesperson said.