BOSTON (WHDH) - A New England Patriots truck loaded with 300,000 N95 respiratory masks departed Gillette Stadium for New York on Friday morning to deliver supplies to hospitals in the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak that are in dire need of assistance.
Massachusetts State Police troopers escorted the truck on its delivery mission just hours after the Patriots team plane landed at Boston’s Logan Airport on Thursday night after picking up more than a million N95 respiratory masks in China.
Rhode Island and Connecticut State Police also joined Massachusetts State Police in their journey to New York.
The massive aircraft touched down hours after Gov. Charlie Baker announced that thanks to some “serious teamwork” and Patriots owner Robert Kraft, local frontline workers fighting the coronavirus would receive more personal protective equipment.
The National Guard is now working to distribute the masks to healthcare workers across the Commonwealth, New York, and other states.
“This gives us the things we have heard time and time again from first responders, emergency medical personnel, nurses, doctors, and everybody else on the healthcare side, which is N95 gear,” Baker said Thursday during a news conference at the State House.
The plane flew to Shenzhen, China early Wednesday morning to pick up the supplies but Baker said Massachusetts needed to circumvent the federal government in order to gain access to the stockpile of gear.
“This is a moment that through the last few weeks, the lieutenant governor and I hoped we would be here to celebrate but never really knew if it would really happen or not,” Baker said.
He fought back tears as he thanked Jonathan and Robert Kraft for stepping up as the essential gear was unloaded behind him
“Honestly we can’t thank you and your dad and your family enough for answering the call and helping to make this happen,” he said. “For the many many dedicated front line workers across this state who are battling COVID-19 on behalf of the people of Massachusetts every single day, this gear will make an enormous difference.”
Baker continued to say that while this will go a long way to protect Bay State healthcare professionals, they still need more and always will.
“Keeping our front line workers safe, is critical. Not just to the success of our efforts to fight this virus but, to the commitment that I know, we all here in the Commonwealth want to make to honor the commitment that they make to all of us and our family members as they serve on the front lines,” he said.
The aircraft was only allowed to be on the ground in China for no longer than three hours and visas had to be fast-tracked to pull off the important mission.
“It was impressive and exciting to us to know that the work that all of has put together was paying off,” Gene Hartigan, of the U.S. China Partnership Committee, told 7NEWS. “It’s the principle of being there to share your time, not being selfish about it, and making sure others are safe.”
Baker made sure to thank everyone on the ground in China who made the delivery possible.
“Receiving the authority to land and load the patriots plane in China required moving through multiple approvals and entities and these key players worked together around the clock to get this done,” he explained.
On the return flight, the plane and its 10-person crew stopped in Alaska to gain clearance from the United States before continuing on to Massachusetts.
“We all talk a lot here in Massachusetts about the Patriot way,” Baker said. “That means working hard stepping up and doing your job. Our job now is to protect each other and to look out for each other as we battle this disease together.”
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