New England Patriots plane returning from China with over 1 million N95 masks

New England Patriots plane returning from China with over 1 million N95 masks
© New England Patriots

The New England Patriots team plane is set to arrive in Massachusetts on Thursday carrying more than 1.2 million N95 masks that were retrieved in Shenzhen, China. 

The large shipment of supplies comes as Massachusetts grapples with an outbreak of the novel coronavirus that is causing medical equipment shortages across the globe. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) has repeatedly warned that his state is facing shortages of critical supplies, and the situation prompted him to work with Patriots owner Robert Kraft to secure a shipment from China. The Wall Street Journal first reported on the development. 

"Ordering vital equipment like this is only one part of the challenge and I am incredibly grateful that the Kraft's worked this issue relentlessly alongside our Command Center staff to get these critical supplies to Massachusetts," Baker said in a statement to The Hill. 

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Baker reportedly struck a deal last month to acquire more than 1 million N95 masks from Chinese manufacturers. But he faced issues over how to ship them out of the country. 

He communicated these problems to Johnathan Kraft, Patriots president and the son of Patriots owner Robert Kraft, the Journal noted. Johnathan Kraft is also the chairman of the board at Massachusetts General Hospital. 

The communication was reportedly followed by requests from Baker, the Patriots and the State Department to China’s counsel general in New York for special permits to land the team's Boeing 767. 

China granted the mission waivers to land shortly after the requests were sent. The plane touched down in Shenzen on Wednesday morning and retrieved 1.2 million of the 1.7 million masks the state ordered. The other 500,000 masks are set to be transported on another shipment. 

Robert Kraft reportedly paid $2 million for the equipment. The specific cost of the supplies and how much the state paid remains unclear. The shipment is set to land in Boston Logan Airport, where it will be inspected. The N95 masks are set to be stored in Massachusetts' strategic stockpile, Politico reported.

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“It is an honor for our family to be a part of this humanitarian mission. 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," Robert Kraft said in a statement to The Hill. "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."  

Robert Kraft also paid for an additional 300,000 N95 masks that are set to be transported from Boston to New York on Friday. 

The shipment's arrival comes as the U.S. death count from the novel coronavirus continues to climb, surpassing 5,000 on Wednesday night. Massachusetts has reported more than 7, 700 confirmed cases of the virus and 122 deaths stemming from it.