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President Trump says NM will get requested Army hospital

President Donald Trump, shown during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House on March 29, told Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham today that New Mexico would get a requested U.S. Army field hospital in Albuquerque. He also expressed concern about rising infection rates on the Navajo Nation. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

SANTA FE — In a telephone conversation between President Donald Trump and governors today, the president told Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham that he will grant her request for a U.S. Army field hospital in Albuquerque.

The governor had asked the federal Department of Defense for the 248-bed hospital last week, citing concern about New Mexico hospitals’ ability to absorb a surge of novel coronavirus cases.

During the phone call today, Lujan Grisham brought up the request and said her office had not yet received word on the hospital from U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

In response, Trump told the governor “we’ll build you that hospital as quick as we can,” according to a transcript of the conversation from CBS News. He also apparently directed aides to look into the issue.

Lujan Grisham has asked that the U.S. Army combat support hospital be in place by April 10, or as soon after that date as possible, though no details about a possible location in Albuquerque have been released.

While only 22 coronavirus patients were hospitalized in New Mexico as of Sunday, state hospital officials have said the state’s health care system will be overwhelmed if a surge in cases can’t be mitigated.

New Mexico has fewer hospital beds per capita than the national average, with 1.8 hospital beds per 1,000 people. The national average is about 2.4 beds per 1,000 people, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Along with other governors, Lujan Grisham has been in regular contact with the White House as the coronavirus outbreak has intensified.

Though Lujan Grisham has, at various times, criticized the federal government for its handling of how information and health care supplies are disseminated to states, the governor appeared to praise Trump during today’s phone conversation, according to the CBS News transcript of an audio recording.

After exchanging concerns about rising COVID-19 infection rates on the Navajo Nation, Lujan Grisham told Trump: “Yeah, I’m very worried and Mr. President, I appreciate you.”

“Thank you very much. I appreciate you,” Trump said in response, according to the transcript.

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