He called the New England Patriots.
The team’s private plane landed in Boston from China on Thursday evening, carrying more than a million essential masks to healthcare providers struggling to control the spread of the virus. Members of the Massachusetts National Guard met the plane and unloaded the containers of waiting mask trucks for transportation to warehouses for distribution.
Baker obtained N95 masks from Chinese manufacturers but had no way of getting them to the U.S. He contacted Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who loaned the Boeing 767 painted in the colors and logo of the team that is typically used to transport the team to and from the NFL Games.
Baker detailed the joint venture at a press conference on Thursday, at one point moved as the Kraft family thanked for their help.
“The Krafts were great,” said the Republican governor. “They were on the phone and immediately got to work on the logistics associated with this and did not stop until they could get there.” It was a total team effort at all levels. “
Kraft Sports and Entertainment chief operating officer Jim Nolan said in a Patriots.com radio interview that the Chinese government had not officially approved the trip until March 27. Nolan said the obstacles included legal logistics that were only lifted through operation cooperation involving multiple state, American and international entities.
Chinese technology company Tencent has been a big help in the process, said Nolan. He agreed to collect the masks, put them through the inspection process, stayed with them to keep them safe, and ultimately moved them to the Patriots’ plane.
“It is not in their wheelhouse, but they thought it was the right thing to do,” said Nolan.
There was little room for error once the plane arrived in China, which gave the Patriots three hours to fill the plane with masks. They were on the ground for 2 hours and 57 minutes according to the flight tracking data monitored by Nolan.
Tencent has handled approximately 1.7 million masks. The Patriots’ plane took 1.2 million, said Nolan. They work with Tencent to bring back additional equipment from China via a cargo plane
The masks will be stored in Massachusetts stock for distribution to medical personnel.
Nolan said 300,000 of the masks will also go to New York to help medical staff there. Baker said Rhode Island will also receive some of the masks.
Patriots running James White said on a conference call Thursday that he was not surprised that Kraft intervened to help him.
“As soon as you enter the building, you see how the Kraft family is helping not only the Boston community but the community around the world and it makes you want to help others,” said White.
Associated Press editors Steve LeBlanc and Mark Pratt contributed to this report.
Follow AP news coverage on the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.