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A grieving daughter called out politicians for ‘lack of leadership’ in her father’s obituary after he died from Covid-19

Mark Urquiza had been battling Covid-19 for more than three weeks before he died in an Arizona hospital on June 30th, his daughter Kristin Urquiza wrote in an obituary.

The father of one was a former high school 400-meter-dash state champion and cross-country runner with no underlying health conditions, his daughter said.

“His death is due to the carelessness of the politicians who continue to jeopardize the health of brown bodies through a clear lack of leadership, refusal to acknowledge the severity of this crisis, and inability and unwillingness to give clear and decisive direction on how to minimize risk,” Urquiza said in her father’s obituary.

Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, with nearly half of deaths and two-thirds of all cases impacting people of color in the US, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than 135,000 people have died across the US since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In the obituary, Kristin Urquiza said that her father “like so many others, should not have died from Covid-19.”

A funeral invitation

Urquiza also wrote a letter to Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey inviting him to her father’s funeral and blaming his lack of action in preventing the spread of the virus for the deaths of her father and others.

“I write to invite you to the burial of my father, Mark Anthony Urquiza. He was one of the 88 Arizonans who died on June 30, 2020 from COVID-19. Despite having a huge family and many friends he died alone with an ICU nurse holding his hand,” the letter read.

“My father contracted the virus during the period when you forbade local governments from implementing their own safety measures, such as mandating the wearing of masks, to protect the public from the spread of COVID-19 through Executive Order 2020-36. As a master of public affairs, I can attest that poor policy and terrible leadership was responsible for his death.”

While there is no statewide mandate requiring masks in Arizona, Gov. Ducey announced on June 17 that he would allow mayors to create their own restriction. Scottsdale was the first to make it mandatory starting June 19, with other major municipalities including Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff issuing their own later.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego told CNN last week that she had to “beg to be able to implement masking orders.”

“My father was anything but a number; his life mattered,” Uquiza said in the letter to Ducey. “That is why I invite you to his burial, to witness first-hand the tragedy of a family mourning our loved one and unable to even hold each other in our grief.”

In an emailed statement to CNN Friday, Patrick Ptak, a spokesman for Gov. Ducey said, “Our hearts go out to the family and loved ones of Mark Anthony Urquiza. We know nothing can fully alleviate the pain associated with his loss, and every loss from this virus is tragic.” He did not say whether the governor would attend the funeral.

Channeling sadness into action

Urquiza told CNN’s Brianna Keilar on CNN Newsroom Friday that despite their heartache, she and her family are going to channel their sadness over her father’s unnecessary death and use it to help bring awareness to the disparity that people of color are facing in healthcare.

“My father, I believe, was robbed of life,” the grieving daughter said. “I have endured a living nightmare over the course of the last three weeks that he was sick and passed. I knew that if I did not speak up, who would?”

She and her family are building an Ofrenda — an alter with candles and pictures — to honor her father at the State Capitol building. They are asking anyone else who may have lost their loved ones to the virus to join their cause by building their own memorials for the dead.

“The best thing that I could do to continue to fight for my father was to fight for other families out there and to make it known that these deaths are preventable as long as we are focused on a coordinated response that minimizes risk and puts people first,” Urquiza told CNN.

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