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"My dad was a healthy 65-year-old. His only preexisting condition was trusting Donald Trump," Kristin Urquiza said at the Democratic National Convention

By Sean Neumann
August 17, 2020 10:21 PM
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Democratic National Convention
Kristin Urquiza at the Democratic National Convention on Monday
| Credit: PBS

Between high-profile politicians speaking at Monday's opening night of the Democratic National Convention, a woman who lost her father to the coronavirus disease COVID-19 delivered a poignant — and pointed — message to the rest of the country.

"My dad was a healthy 65-year-old. His only preexisting condition was trusting Donald Trump," Kristin Urquiza said, speaking from her home. "And for that, he paid with his life."

Mark Anthony Urquiza, Kristin's dad, died on June 30 from COVID-19.

Urquiza was one of a handful of people who have gone public — and grabbed headlines — for writing obituaries for family members who died from the virus. These remembrances blamed Trump and other leading Republicans for the deaths, in large part because of the president's contradictory and sometimes dismissive attitude toward the pandemic.

Biden reportedly reached out to Kristin to invited her to speak Monday night about her father.

"He had faith in Donald Trump," she said in a remote appearance during the virtual gathering. "He voted for him, listened to him and believed him and his mouthpieces when they said that coronavirus was under control and going to disappear, that it was okay to end social distancing rules before it was safe and that if you had no underlying health conditions that you'd probably be fine."

Trump has defended his strategy in different ways — saying the states had fumbled where he has not, saying that the virus was not foreseeable and saying that the steps he did take, like limiting international travel, saved countless more lives.

"By comparison to most other countries, who are suffering greatly, we are doing very well - and we have done things that few other countries could have done!" he tweeted in July.

Kristin said Monday that after Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey lifted his state's stay-at-home orders on May 15, her father later went out to a karaoke bar where it's believed he contracted the virus.

"A few weeks later, he was put on a ventilator," she said. "And after five agonizing days, he died alone in the ICU with a nurse holding his hand."

While Democratic lawmakers old and new will line up this week at the virtual DNC to slam Trump on everything from his controversial rhetoric to his fumbled handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kristin's choice to speak was intended, in part, to personalize the scale of loss across the country in recent months.

She also highlighted the disproportionate impact the virus has had on communities of color in the U.S.

“The coronavirus has made it clear that there are two Americas: the America that Donald Trump lives in and the America that my father died in," she said Monday.

At least 170,100 people have died from COVID-19 as of the time her speech aired Monday night, according to a New York Times tracker.

The Arizona native who now lives in San Francisco told The Arizona Republic in July that she blamed Gov. Ducey for her father's death in his obituary because she wanted the lawmaker to see that coronavirus deaths weren't just numbers.

She said Monday that once she told her story, "a lot of people reached out to me to share theirs."

A wave of obituaries just like hers have been published this summer.

Stacey Nagy, a Texas woman who blamed Trump directly in her husband's obituary, told PEOPLE in August that she wanted people to know who she blamed for her husband's death.

"I was very angry about it," Nagy, 72, said then.

"He was the love of my life for crying out loud. I was pissed,” Nagy said of her late husband, David, who died from COVID-19 at 79.

Nagy added then that “the whole thing is just so needless," and that she found it "difficult listening to the B.S. that Trump says, watching Trump ignore the whole thing and minimize it from the beginning and do nothing about it."

"It’s because of his attitude that this whole coronavirus thing turned into a political thing," Nagy added.

Nagy blamed Texas Gov. Jim Abbott, just as Fiana Tulip did in her mother, Isabelle Odette Papadimitriou's obituary in July.

Tulip wrote in her mother's obituary that the Republican governor's "inaction and active denial" of the virus' impact "has made it clear that the people dying, and the families they’re leaving behind, are just numbers to you."

Tulip said she invited the Texas governor to come to her mother's funeral, just as Kristin Urquiza had invited Arizona's Republican leader to come to her father's funeral. Neither attended.

"My mother’s loss is enormous," Tulip previously told PEOPLE. "I know in my heart that it was preventable."