Patriots to the rescue: team plane delivering 1.2 million surgical masks from China

Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

America needs as much medical assistance as it can get right now as the COVID-19 pandemic approaches its projected peak. N95 surgical masks are among the most important and scarce pieces of equipment necessary to help doctors and nurses work safely to battle the deadly virus.

Well, help is on the way, thanks in large part to ... the New England Patriots.

As revealed in a new report from the Wall Street Journal, the Patriots' team plane departed from Shenzhen, China on Wednesday carrying 1.2 million N95 masks to the United States. The Boeing 767 is expected to land at Logan Airport on Thursday.

The story of the delivery began when Mass. governor Charlie Baker reportedly struck a deal with Chinese manufacturers to procure over a million masks. The issue, however, was how to get them back to the states.

“I’ve never seen so much red tape in so many ways and obstacles that we had to overcome,” said Robert Kraft. “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.”

Jan 27, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; New England Patriots team plane takes off at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport ahead of Super Bowl LIII. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 27, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; New England Patriots team plane takes off at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport ahead of Super Bowl LIII. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Baker had a valuable intermediary in all this: Jonathan Kraft, who is both the president of the Patriots and the chairman of the board at Mass. General Hospital. So the Krafts and Baker got to work on making sure the plane could make the trip to China on short notice, carry the cargo as needed, and - most importantly - secure permission to land in China in a timely manner.

The full report paints an arduous picture of the plane's quest from New England to Alaska to China and back, which included a 3-hour limit for the plane to be grounded in China. As the story goes, the loading process took 2 hours, 57 minutes.

"As I said before, ordering vital equipment like this is only one part of the challenge and I am incredibly grateful that the Krafts worked this issue relentlessly alongside our Command Center staff to get these critical supplies to Massachusetts," said Baker in a statement (via the Boston Globe).

Charlie Baker on Twitter

No days off. Thanks to some serious teamwork, Massachusetts is set to receive over 1 million N95 masks for our front-line workers. Huge thanks to the Krafts and several dedicated partners for making this happen.

According to the WSJ, the Krafts paid $2 million (half the cost) to procure 1.7 million masks in total. The plane, not being your typical cargo carrier, could only fit 1.2 million. But the rest are reportedly expected to arrive soon in another shipment.

The Krafts and Gov. Baker pledged to send 300,000 of the masks to New York, which has become the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. As of Wednesday, New York has confirmed 1,941 deaths and 83,889 total infections due to the virus, and by far the most cases per 100,000 people with 427.6.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 28: Touro University Nevada medical students check a box of N95 respirators and surgical masks before conducting medical screenings at a temporary homeless shelter set up in a parking lot at Cashman Center on March 28, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada was closed this week after a homeless man who used their services tested positive for the coronavirus, leaving about 500 people with no overnight shelter. The city of Las Vegas, Clark County and local homeless providers plan to operate the shelter tonight through April 3rd when it is anticipated that the Catholic Charities facility will be back open. The city is also reserving the building spaces at Cashman Center in case of an overflow of hospital patients. The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus (COVID-19) a global pandemic on March 11th. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 28: Touro University Nevada medical students check a box of N95 respirators and surgical masks before conducting medical screenings at a temporary homeless shelter set up in a parking lot at Cashman Center on March 28, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

In Massachusetts, there are 7,738 known cases, sixth-most in the country. Mass. has the eighth-most fatalities so far, with 122 deaths confirmed as of Wednesday.

Multiple reports indicate that the peak of coronavirus cases in the U.S. isn't expected to arrive for another two weeks. Gov. Baker recently extended the state's stay-at-home advisory and closure of non-essential businesses until May 4.

Hopefully, this heroic delivery from the Patriots' plane helps protect the health care workers and first responders on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19. They've long been some of the most important workers in the country. We need them now more than we have in a long time.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].