Over the years, the New England Patriots team plane has received triumphant receptions when landing at Boston Logan Airport after each of its six Super Bowl wins.
On Thursday, the welcoming will be more low key but the load onboard will be far more important as the plane will be carrying medical equipment from China, which will be delivered to healthcare workers in Massachusetts fighting the coronavirus outbreak.
The Patriots have made the plane available after Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker pleaded for help over the last couple of weeks, warning the state was in urgent need of personal protective equipment such as surgical masks and gowns and sanitizing wipes for healthcare workers as it braces for a peak in the number of cases, which is expected to hit the state at some stage between April 7 and 17.
"I think we're gonna have a lot more to say about gear tomorrow," Baker said at a press conference on Wednesday. "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. I've also said that I expected to have more information on this later this week, and I do."
Along with Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Baker will welcome the plane at Logan Airport, before the equipment will be transported to Marlborough, 30 miles west of Boston.
"It is an honor for our family to be a part of this humanitarian mission," Kraft said in a statement the Patriots circulated to the media.
"We knew that purchasing greatly-needed N95 masks and providing the Patriots plane to expedite their delivery to local hospitals would immediately help protect our courageous healthcare professionals. Multiple organizations across the public and private sectors, all of which were in lockstep with Governor Charlie Baker's visionary leadership, worked together to execute this mission with the purpose of helping save lives.
"I truly hope that in doing so, we can in some way inspire others to find creative ways to give more in support of our doctors, nurses and first responders. It's nice to care for those who provide such compassionate care for us."
Approximately 1.4 million N95 masks will be used to replenish the inventory of PPE at hospitals throughout Massachusetts, while the Patriots owner has also purchased 300,000 N95 masks to provide aid to Governor Andrew Cuomo in New York. The latter equipment will be transported from Boston to New York on Friday morning.
As of Thursday morning, almost 217,000 cases have been reported in the U.S., by far the highest tally in the world. More than 5,100 deaths have been recorded in the U.S. and almost 8,700 people have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University, which has been tracking the outbreak using combined data sources.
Massachusetts has reported almost 8,000 cases and over 120 deaths.
Almost 38,000 people have died globally since the outbreak of coronavirus began in Wuhan, a city located in China's central Hubei province, late last year. There have been over 787,000 confirmed cases globally, with more than 166,000 recoveries.
On Wednesday, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick thanked doctors and nurses for their efforts and urged the public to pull together and look out for each other during such unprecedented times.
"I want to reach out to you in these uncertain and unprecedented times to let you know that I and the New England Patriots are behind you," the six-time Super Bowl winner said in a video message recorded and tweeted by the franchise.
"We are all in this together. Thank you to our heroic medical professionals, doctors, nurses, medical workers and others, who are selflessly and courageously doing their job to take care of others in need. We have heard your stories and seen some of your great work. You are truly champions and warriors.
"We are facing a difficult opponent. ... There are plenty of things we cannot do right now, but let's focus on what we can do. We can adapt, we can adjust and we can make better decisions right now for the betterment of the future.
"As I tell our team, let's keep stringing good days together and we will get through this."
Last week, the NFL announced it had committed more than $35 million to the COVID-19 relief efforts, which included donations from owners, teams and players and $3.4 million from the NFL Foundation.
Meanwhile, former NBA star Stephon Marbury revealed on Sunday he had organized for 10 million medical masks to be delivered from China to health care workers battling the coronavirus pandemic in New York City.
Newsweek has contacted the Patriots for comments.