For perhaps the first time in history the Patriots logo is a welcome site in New York on Friday as 300,000 N95 medical masks have been shipped to the city’s healthcare workers on a team truck after owner Robert Kraft flew 1.2 million masks in from China to address shortages in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
The 300,000 masks were delivered to Manhattan’s Javits Center, which has been converted into a hospital for people infected with COVID-19.
The masks have been in short supply amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as states along with the federal government have been trying to outbid each other for the sorely needed medical supplies.
On Thursday the Wall Street Journal first reported the shipment, which was flown in Shenzen, China and cost Kraft and the state of Massachusetts around $2million apiece. Originally they ordered 1.7 million masks, but only 1.2 million could fit on the plane, which was obviously built for passenger use and not shipping. The remaining masks will come in a second shipment, according to the Journal.
Kraft’s acquisition of 300,000 masks for New York was a separate transaction, a spokesman told the Daily Mail. However, those masks were included in the shipment that arrived in Massachusetts on Friday and have since been sent along to New York.
‘We agreed to buy them and give them to the people of the city of New York just to try to bring some hope and good will and let people know we’re trying to bring everything together,’ Kraft told CNN.
‘I’d been watching Governor [Andrew] Cuomo over the last few weeks and I just think he’s done an outstanding job,’ Kraft said. ‘He’s at the epicenter of this crisis, and he has a calming way about him. He brings confidence.
‘And I have a personal tie to New York City; Columbia was good to me, and gave me a full scholarship as a kid. I love the city. I love the people there. I don’t think what’s going on is something any of us could imagine.’
With state police escorts, a Patriots team truck delivered about 900,000 masks to a strategic reserve 30 miles west of Boston before driving another 100,000 masks to Rhode Island.
Currently 100 percent of donations to the Patriots Foundation are being used to buy medical supplies, which have been increasingly hard to find amid the growing outbreak.
Cuomo and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker have complained that states are being forced to outbid each other for N95 masks, as well as other medical equipment, resulting in higher prices and shorter supplies.
Kraft had a similarly frustrating time getting the masks to the US.
‘I’ve never seen so much red tape in so many ways and obstacles that we had to overcome,’ 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 Patriots’ plane was reportedly limited to just three hours on the ground in Shenzen, and needed all but three minutes of that to load the masks for the return flight.
As detailed in the Journal’s piece, the effort began weeks earlier when Baker and his staff tracked down the necessary N95 manufacturers in China. The problem was shipping them out of Shenzen amid the global pandemic and the subsequent shipping regulations.
There was even a chance that any potential flight crew could get quarantined in China, where the COVID-19 outbreak began.
‘I just have to get them here,’ he reportedly told Kraft’s son Jonathan, who serves as Patriots president and as chairman of the board at Massachusetts General Hospital.
It was Jonathan Kraft who suggested using one of the team’s two planes.
Robert Kraft, the US State Department and Baker all followed with letters to China’s counsel general in New York to acquire the special permits, request waivers, and explain that every member of the crew would remain on board while the plane was loaded.
After an avionics upgrade in Wilmington, Ohio on Friday night, the crew quickly scrambled to get visas by taking ID photos at a local pharmacy and sending them back to the Chinese Consulate, which opened its New York office over the weekend to accommodate the request.
Taking only mandatory rest and downtime, the crew landed in Alaska before heading to Shenzen, where one problem still remained: Who would load the masks onto the plane?
‘What we needed,’ said Kraft Sports and Entertainment COO JIM Nolan, ‘were boots on the ground to gather the goods and get them to the right place.’
With help from intermediaries, the group was connected with executives at Tencent, a Chinese tech company, agreed to send over a dozen people to inspect and aggregate the masks. The group even stayed overnight guarding some of the shipment at the airport while manufacturers rushed to finish the rest.
When the order was complete, the Tencent team ushered the masks through customs and onto the waiting Patriots team plane. The remaining 500,000 or so masks are reportedly being guarded by Tencent until the second shipment can be made.
‘The Krafts were terrific,’ Baker said at his daily news conference Thursday. ‘They were a phone call away, and immediately went to work on the logistics associated with this, and did not stop until they could make it happen.’
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Alex Raskin