Snack on this: for New Yorkers, getting your hands on a COVID-19 test will soon be as effortless as hitting up a hotdog stand, thanks to the impending rollout of vending machines stocked with take-home test kits. Soft-opening on January 25th and officially launching the week of February 1st, the touchless machines will be housed in Midtown's Herald Square alongside a massive, fully staffed store.
The project, spearheaded by biotech company Wellness4Humanity (W4H) and software hub Swyft Inc., follows the lead of similar initiatives seen in the U.K., Hong Kong, Latvia and even University of California San Diego. And just last week, W4H ceremoniously placed its first vending machine inside Oakland International Airport.
According to W4H, its New York City hubs will soon have two kit options available—both Emergency Use Authorized by the FDA. First will be DIY saliva RT-PCR tests, requiring free shipping to a processing lab. Results will be delivered via a mobile app within a 48-hour turnaround window. Eventually, the vending machines will also offer the TRUSTPASS rapid antigen at-home kit, providing 97.4% accurate results in 15 minutes with no need for shipping.
Though estimated to run at a minimum of $119 per kit, like all things, costs will vary based on fluctuating demand and manufacturing capabilities.
In a few months, W4H hopes to add Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Denver and other major cities to its list of locations, with desired sites including music venues, shopping malls, college campuses and stores like the Midtown flagship. A press release states the company is also already in talks with "every major airport" in the country. Ideally, the company noted, this new testing system will help large-scale gatherings, especially festivals, return to their pre-pandemic glory as soon as possible.