The New England Patriots' team plane is being used to transport 1.2 million N95 masks from Shenzhen, China, to the United States.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the transfer was the result of multiple global negotiations and the Massachusetts governor, Charlie Baker, calling on Patriots team president Jonathan Kraft for his help in acquiring the masks.
The Patriots' plane had to be upgraded for international travel and a waiver to avoid a 14-day quarantine in China was granted if the crew did not leave the aircraft, according to the Journal.
"I've never seen so much red tape in so many ways and obstacles that we had to overcome," Patriots owner Robert Kraft said, according to the Journal. "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."
The Kraft family paid $2 million, about half the cost, to acquire the masks, according to the newspaper. The initial order was for 1.7 million masks, but only 1.2 million could fit on the plane. The remainder of the masks are set to be delivered in another shipment, the Journal reports.
The Massachusetts governor gave a "huge thanks to the Krafts and several dedicated partners for making this happen" in a tweet Thursday morning.
"It is an honor for our family to be a part of this humanitarian mission," Robert Kraft said in a statement. "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. 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.
"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."
Of the total, 300,000 masks have been pledged to New York state, which has the most coronavirus cases in the country with more than 83,000. Massachusetts has more than 7,700 coronavirus cases and more than 120 people have died due to the virus.
N95 masks are medical-grade equipment that have been in short supply for health care workers and first responders in the United States amid the coronavirus pandemic.
A number of sports stars, including former New York Knicks guard Stephon Marbury and Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel have offered ways to acquire medical masks, while several sports gear manufacturers have pivoted to making medical equipment during the outbreak.
The Patriots' plane, which was allowed on the ground in China for only three hours, according to the Journal, is expected to arrive at Boston Logan International Airport on Thursday.
According to Politico, the Massachusetts National Guard will then transport the masks to a strategic stockpile in Marlborough, Massachusetts.