At this point in the pandemic, there is no doubt that the people most vulnerable to the effects — both health and economic — are people of color.
Day by day, new reports show how the coronavirus’s most significant blow is taken by Latinos and African Americans, as well as by the Native American communities, who have a hospitalization rate approximately five times higher than non-Hispanic whites, according to CDC figures.
The reasons for this are inescapable: long-standing systemic health and social inequalities and the preexisting conditions that result.
Last week, The Washington Post explained how these statistics could be even higher, given the gaps in CDC data, which rely on local agencies not required to collect detailed data on every person who tests positive.
“Latinos are dying in this pandemic, and are likely being undercounted due to the different ways hospitals and government agencies collect health care data,” Andres Ramirez, a health care expert with Protect Our Care, a coalition trying to fend off Republican attacks on the Affordable Care Act, told the Post. “With these undercounts, federal government officials can withhold vital resources like testing kits that are desperately needed in these underserved communities. These inaccurate Latino counts hurt everyone, hampering our ability to get this virus under control.”
For the Urquiza family in Arizona, there is only one culprit: the government.
— Kristin Urquiza, MPA (she/her) (@kdurquiza) July 9, 2020
As the family told NBC after the death of their father, Mark Anthony Urquiza, “I think that elected officials and the governors can make tough decisions to make sure that we keep as many Arizonans as safe as possible.
The tragic death of his father from coronavirus and the impossibility of performing funeral rites — a fundamental issue in Latinos’ idiosyncrasy — has filled them with anger and frustration, as it has for many other Hispanic families in the country.
“I was gripped not only by grief but by anger and rage, that his life didn’t seem to matter to the people in charge,” Kristin Urquiza told the media. “They have blood on their hands. People are dying.”
Now, the family has gone viral after draining their sadness and frustration in an obituary in the Arizona Republic, the state’s largest newspaper, where they accuse “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 the crisis, and inability and unwillingness to give clear and decisive direction on how to minimize risk.”
Given the government’s response to the crisis —especially in Arizona, where nearly 3,000 people have died, and the government was one of those that pushed for the rapid reopening of the economy — the Urquiza family has decided to transform their anger into activism, calling on the community to collaborate in an ofrenda (altar) with photos of the people killed by COVID-19 outside the Arizona State Capitol building.
In a letter addressed to Ducey on July 6, Urquiza said her 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.”
In response to the family’s criticism, Patrick Ptak, a spokesperson for Ducey’s office, told NBC News via email that their “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.”