The New England Patriots customized Boeing 767 jet was used in a trip to China to bring back more than one million masks to help control the spread of the coronavirus. Steven Senne/Associated Press

BOSTON — The New England Patriots private team plane is expected to return to Boston from China on Thursday carrying more than 1 million masks critical to health care providers fighting to control the spread of the coronavirus.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker secured the N95 masks from Chinese manufacturers but had no way of getting them to the U.S. Baker said at an afternoon press conference that an earlier order for 3 million masks had been confiscated at the Port of New York.

The team stepped into help.

In an interview with radio Thursday, Kraft Sports and Entertainment chief operating officer Jim Nolan said the Chinese government officially didn’t sign off on the trip until March 27. He said the hurdles included legal logistics that were only cleared thanks to cooperation involving multiple state, U.S. and international entities.

“I think it is the biggest work challenge I have had in my 24 years with the Kraft family,” Nolan said.

As part of the deal, Nolan said the Patriots received permission to land in China and got a waiver of a 14-day quarantine because the pilots didn’t get off the plane.

“Thanks to some serious teamwork, Massachusetts is set to receive over 1 million N95 masks for our front-line workers,” Baker tweeted Thursday. “Huge thanks to the Krafts and several dedicated partners for making this happen.”

Baker said some masks will be going to New York and Rhode island.

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