As the country is struggling to contain the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic — according to Johns Hopkins University more than 245,000 people have already been infected in the U.S. as of Friday morning — Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and the New England Patriots’ ownership teamed up to import 1.2 million protective masks from China to the United States. The masks arrived on U.S. soil by Thursday afternoon.
One of the Patriots’ two team planes was used as the method of transportation, with Robert and Jonathan Kraft donating their Boeing 767 after the Massachusetts state government bought the protective N95 masks to support a health care system that has been tested by the fast-spreading virus. The Kraft family also decided to pay an additional $2 million to help some of cover the cost associated with the operation.
“It is an honor for our family to be a part of this humanitarian mission,” Robert Kraft said in a statement provided by the Patriots. “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.”
Later in the day, Kraft went on a media tour to add additional information about how the masks were delivered from Shenzhen, China to Boston’s Logan International Airport. Appearing on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360°, he spoke about how Governor Baker got in touch with his son and Patriots team president Jonathan — and how the operation started rolling from there with the team assisting the local authorities in delivering the goods.
“The governor of our state has a close relationship with my eldest son, who is the chair of the board at Mass General — a great hospital — and he asked if there was a way that they could get these masks that they had bought in China back to America,” Kraft said on CNN on Thursday night. “He’s a great governor, he’s doing a great job, and we happened to have a little plane that we use for our team that was idle.”
“We put it together and had our team working with a lot of individuals, and flew to China and with the help of companies like Martin Lau at Tencent, and the ambassador, and the people on the ground, and our crew who flew, they just went in there and they did a great job,” the 78-year-old added. He also opened up about a donation of his and the Massachusetts government to the City of New York in the form of 300,000 of the masks.
Appearing on NBC Boston, Kraft talked about getting in touch with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo about donating masks to the state that has been hit hardest by the pandemic (almost 100,000 people have been infected in New York State alone with over 1,500 confirmed deaths). The issue was a personal one for the Patriots’ owner given his relationship to the state and city from his time at Columbia University.
“When we were able to arrange these N95 masks — over a million of them — I thought it would be great if we could do something to actually complement Governor Cuomo’s great leadership in the state,” said Kraft. “So I wound up speaking to the Governor of Massachusetts and said would he allow us to give 300,000 of the masks to the people of New York City, and he immediately, Governor Baker, said yes.”
“And I think that’s so cool, that a republican governor wanted to do whatever he could to work with a democratic governor in Cuomo. And in this time, this transcends politics and brings everything together,” he added. “I personally have a deep affection for all the citizens of New York City, and in a way I just thought that it might be cool if the owner of the New England Patriots is doing whatever he can to help Jets and Giants fans have better health.”
Helping import protective masks to Massachusetts is non the only charitable act by the Kraft family and the Patriots organization these days: they also recently donated more than $100,000 in goods to food pantries and homeless shelters in the region.