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Read this: The New England Patriots plane brought 1 million N95 masks from China

If you put “NFL team plane bringing N95 masks from China to Massachusetts” on your list of “unlikely things that could happen during coronavirus outbreak” congratulations. The Wall Street Journal has a remarkable tense tap report of the process that brought the New England Patriots’ custom aircraft to China and back to Massachusetts with more than 1 million of the masks scarce for health professionals treating patients with COVID-19. Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker had made a deal to get much-needed masks from a supplier in China. But returning them to Bay State was no small task:

The effort started with Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, who was concerned about the state’s range of masks and believed two weeks ago that he had made a deal to acquire over a million of them from a collection of Chinese manufacturers. But officials had to figure out how to get them out of China at a time when unusual freight shipments can be particularly troublesome for the country.

“I just have to get them here,” he said to an old friend.

Jonathan Kraft, president of the Patriots organization – who also happens to be chairman of the board of Massachusetts General Hospital – was the “ old friend ” Baker contacted. His father, Robert Kraft, owns the patriots. Before they could fly through the hurdles to fly to China, they had to make sure that the plane was able to handle international flight.

Last Friday evening, the crew had moved to Wilmington, Ohio, because the plane needed aircraft electronics for the international journey. The mission received waivers from China to land and did so without quarantining – no one would be on board except the necessary flight crew – but they were told the crew still needed a visa. So the whole group scrambled to a local pharmacy and took photos for the application. The photos were flown to New York to be taken to the Chinese consulate and then to Ohio.

But that was the “easy” part. Getting permission to land the plane in China, pick up the masks, and then fly back to Massachusetts required multilevel cooperation, including the Chinese Embassy and technology company Tencent, which helped secure the masks and transfer them to Shenzhen Airport. bring. Chinese officials gave the plane’s crew a three-hour window from the time they landed to the time they were allowed to leave Shenzhen without being quarantined.

Early Wednesday morning on the East Coast, the Patriots’ 767 from Alaska had landed in Shenzhen. It grounded for 2 hours and 57 minutes – just inside the three-hour window the crew got. Because cargo was not allowed on parts of the passenger plane, only 1.2 million of the masks fit. The rest, which is held securely by Tencent, will soon be transported on another shipment.

Patriots are often the heels of the NFL because it’s easy for people outside of New England to hate a team that has won six Super Bowl titles. But according to the WSJ, the Krafts agreed to pay $ 2 million for the cost of the masks and send some to New York (home of the Jets, one of the Pats’ biggest rivals).

While it probably won’t convert Jets or Steelers fans to root for the Patriots, this story is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at, as corny as it sounds, the power of teamwork during a crisis. Check it out here.