The latest in the series of unlikely coronavirus heroes: The New England Patriots.
According to the Wall Street Journal, at 3:38 a.m on Wednesday morning, the NFL team plane departed Shenzhen, China with 1.2 million N95 masks and landed in Boston to be delivered to healthcare workers across Massachusetts.
An unexpected partnership between Patriots’ owner, Robert Kraft, Patriots’ President Jonathan Kraft and Massachusetts gov. Charlie Baker brought this mission to life.
According to the WSJ’s report, the process of getting the masks to the United States was a long one full of red tape and obstacles. A few weeks ago, Baker was able to facilitate a deal between manufacturer in China for the masks but had no way of transporting them back to the U.S.
That’s when the Patriots’ stepped in. After the Patriots’ plane was prepped and upgraded for international travel, the plane and crew was granted a waived to avoid a 14-day quarantine in China, so long as they did not leave the plane, according to the Journal.
Bringing the equipment to the U.S on the team’s airplane was “probably the most challenging operation our organization and team ever had to do,” Kraft told CNN Thursday night.
As reported by WSJ, Robert Kraft spent $2 million of his own money — which is about half the cost — to purchase the masks, in addition to another 300, 000 masks for New York State, which according to CNN will be in New York Friday morning. New York is one of the places hit the hardest in the U.S, with the most coronavirus cases in the country at more than 83,000.
“I have a personal tie to New York City; Columbia was good to me, and gave me a full scholarship as a kid. I love the city. I love the people there. I don’t think what’s going on is something any of us could imagine,” the Patriots’ owner told CNN.
The initial order was for 1.7 million masks, but only 1.2 million could fit on the plane. The approximate 500,000, remaining masks are set to be delivered in another shipment.
The Massachusetts governor expressed his appreciation and “huge thanks to the Krafts and several dedicated partners for making this happen” in a tweet Thursday morning.