New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has partnered with Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker to purchase 1.4 million N95 masks from China as the U.S. death toll from the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to rise.
Kraft also personally purchased an additional 300,000 N95 masks for New York state, which has become the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. The supplies were flown on the Patriots' personal plane.
Kraft wanted to assist New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo out of respect and admiration for his leadership, a source familiar with the matter told ABC News.
“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," Kraft said in a statement obtained by ABC News.
"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," Kraft added. "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.”
States have been struggling amid a shortage of personal protective equipment and have had to compete with the federal government and international demand to replenish their inventories.
"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," Baker tweeted Thursday morning, along with a photo of the Patriots plane in China.
Last month, Baker raised this concern directly in a phone call with President Donald Trump during a teleconference with the nation's governors.
Trump had asked governors to purchase their own supplies to battle the virus instead of relying on the federal stockpile.
Baker told Trump on March 19 that his state "took very seriously" the president's instructions to “go out and buy” their own supplies to battle COVID-19, but “on three big orders we lost to the fed.”
The total number of masks transported from China is 1.7 million and the inventory is expected to arrive at Boston Logan Airport on Thursday afternoon. According to the source, the use of the Patriots plane accelerated the process, which could have taken several more weeks.
The 300,000 N95 masks for New York are expected to be transferred via truck to the The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City on Friday, which has been converted into a hospital as medical facilities are strained due to the pandemic.
Other leaders in the sports world have also made efforts to address the shortage of protective personal equipment.
Last week, Major League Baseball and Fanatics executive chairman Michael Rubin announced plans to halt the production of MLB uniforms to produce at least 1 million masks and hospital gowns for health care workers and emergency personnel battling COVID-19.
Fanatics, which is based in Easton, Pennsylvania, is the manufacturer of the the official MLB player jerseys.
"We have already begun production of up to one million masks and gowns from the fabric used to make the official MLB jerseys and then donating to hospitals and emergency management personnel throughout Pennsylvania with the goal of expanding to New York and New Jersey," Rubin said in a statement obtained by ABC News last week.
Rubin, who is also a minority owner of the Philadelphia 76ers, is working with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf to distribute the gowns and masks to hospitals in New York and New Jersey.