New England Patriots send plane to China to bring back a million N95 masks

The New England Patriots answered the calls for help as Massachusetts became the latest state to struggle with supply shortages amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Patriots team owner Robert Kraft sent the organization’s private plane to China to pick up much-needed protective equipment for medical workers in the state, according to multiple reports. The plane is set to land at Logan Airport on Thursday and be greeted by Gov. Charlie Baker.

Some 1.2 million N95 masks are onboard the aircraft, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The plane was allowed to be in China for three hours and the crew was told to stay in the plane while people on the ground loaded the jet with the cargo, the newspaper reported. The team reportedly had three minutes to spare before leaving China.

The Patriots and the state of Massachusetts had enormous hurdles to climb over just to get permission to land in China and get the potentially life-saving equipment, according to The Wall Street Journal. It reportedly took weeks to get Chinese officials’ approval to land the jet in the country to get the masks.

“I’ve never seen so much red tape in so many ways and obstacles that we had to overcome,” Kraft told the Journal. “In today’s world, those of us who are fortunate to make a difference have a significant responsibility to do so with all the assets we have available to us.”

Workers at Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport loading personal protective equipment onto the Patriots' plane. (Copyright: New England Patriots)

The Kraft family reportedly paid $2 million for 1.7 million masks. However, about 500,000 masks were left behind because some cargo wasn’t allowed on parts of the plane. The remaining masks are reportedly going to be shipped separately.

Baker and Kraft also agreed to send 300,000 masks to New York.

“It is an honor for our family to be a part of this humanitarian mission," Kraft said in a statement. "We knew that purchasing greatly-needed N95 masks and providing the Patriots plane to expedite their delivery to local hospitals would immediately help protect our courageous healthcare professionals. Multiple organizations across the public and private sectors, all of which were in lockstep with Governor Charlie Baker’s visionary leadership, worked together to execute this mission with the purpose of helping save lives. I truly hope that in doing so, we can in some way inspire others to find creative ways to give more in support of our doctors, nurses and first responders. It’s nice to care for those who provide such compassionate care for us.”

As of Wednesday night, Massachusetts was in the top five of the country with the most coronavirus cases. The state has reported at least 7,700 cases with 122 deaths.