Bob Kraft sends Patriots jet to pick up medical supplies from China

BOSTON — A New England Patriots plane full of much-needed personal protective equipment from China is to fly into Boston on Thursday afternoon, according to a source familiar with the plans.

Gov. Charlie Baker will greet the NFL team’s plane when it arrives at Logan Airport with Patriots owner Bob Kraft and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. From there, the state's National Guard will transport the equipment to a strategic stockpile in Marlboro, according to the person familiar with the plans.

Kraft, a longtime friend of President Donald Trump, has appeared at the White House numerous times and is a frequent patron at the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

There are 7,738 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Massachusetts, and more than a thousand of those cases were reported on Wednesday — the largest spike the state has seen so far. To date, 122 people have died from the virus in the state, and the state has conducted more than 51,000 tests. The state converted an arena in Worcester into a 250-bed field hospital Wednesday as it prepares for an influx in patients, and it is eyeing a Boston convention center as another possible hospital site.

For weeks, Baker has warned that Massachusetts is in desperate need of more protective equipment including masks, sanitizing wipes and gowns for health care workers on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis, especially as cases are expected to surge sometime between April 7 and April 17 in Massachusetts.

The Republican governor has raised those concerns with Trump. He told the president the federal government was outbidding Massachusetts on equipment — even after advising states to work on getting their own supplies. A week later, the Bay State was still being outbid and had only received a fraction of what it requested from the Strategic National Stockpile. Baker grew increasingly frustrated at a recent news conference, saying he’d seen confirmed orders for millions of pieces of gear "evaporate" before his eyes.

With Kraft's help, it appears Massachusetts has found an alternative way to get necessary equipment. It wasn’t clear Wednesday night whether Kraft or the state is paying for the protective equipment being imported from China.

When Baker was asked Wednesday about protective equipment during a news conference in Worcester, he did not say much but hinted at an announcement planned for Thursday. Baker's office did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday night.

"I think we're gonna have a lot more to say about gear tomorrow," Baker said Wednesday. "I'm gonna leave it at that.

"We've been working on a variety of processes and opportunities to make sure that we have the gear that we need to serve our medical community and our first responders," Baker continued. "I've also said that I expected to have more information on this later this week, and I do."