BOSTON (WWLP) – Governor Charlie Baker reached out to the New England Patriots when he found himself in need of assistance to bring protective gear for healthcare workers in his state as they fight the coronavirus pandemic.
On Thursday, the Patriots team plane “AirKraft” brought approximately 1.2 million N95 masks from China to Boston. Massachusetts National Guardsmen met the plane at Boston’s Logan Airport and offloaded the masks onto trucks to be distributed to hospitals in Massachusetts and New York.
According to the Associated Press, Gov. Baker had secured the masks from Chinese manufacturers but had no way of getting them to the U.S. That was when he reached out to Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who allowed the team’s plane to be used to bring the critically needed masks.
The Kraft family also paid $2 million to cover about half the cost of the masks. Why didn’t Gov. Baker use traditional channels to transport the masks from China?
Gov. Baker said to the media on Thursday, the state had ordered 3 million masks through BJ’s Wholesale in early March but they were confiscated at the Port in New York, State House News Service reported. The governor did not say which agency or organization confiscated the masks. It is also unclear where the 3 million masks went.
On Friday, Massachusetts State Police troopers arrived at the Javits Center in New York City with a Patriots tractor-trailer containing 300,000 protective masks, the rest will be distributed to health care facilities in Massachusetts.
Gov. Baker also announced that Gillette Stadium would become the site of a drive-thru center for first responders. He’s also eyeing three locations in the state for field medical hospitals, including Springfield’s MassMutual Center.
A large-scale contact tracing program, with the help of a nonprofit health organization, is also being launched to track individuals who might have been exposed to COVID-19 patients.
By Friday, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts had increased to 10,402 with 192 deaths reported.