PHOENIX – Kristin Urquiza, the former Arizona resident who drew attention for a searing obituary of her father that slammed politicians' handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, called for President Donald Trump to resign Wednesday after reports he'd purposely downplayed the severity of the novel coronavirus.
Trump knew weeks before the first confirmed U.S. coronavirus death that COVID-19 was highly contagious and more deadly than the flu, according to a new book by journalist Bob Woodward. Yet, when addressing the public, he claimed the virus was "under control" and would soon disappear.
"The president is on record lying," Urquiza, whose father died of COVID-19 in June, told The Arizona Republic, part of the USA TODAY Network. "It’s undeniable, and it’s inexcusable."
More than 6 million people have been infected with COVID-19 in the U.S. to date, with those over 65 years old hit particularly hard. Nearly 190,000 Americans have died, and countless others face grueling, months-long recoveries.
"We’re taught to follow our leaders especially during times of crisis. For people like my dad, he trusted Donald Trump, he trusted (Arizona) Gov. Doug Ducey," Urquiza said.
"When they, in May, decided to lie to the public and say that it was safe to go out and to resume normal activities, my father followed their advice. For that, he paid with his life."
Obituary gains attention
Mark Anthony Urquiza started feeling ill June 11, as Arizona grappled with one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the world. The surge followed a mid-May loosening of shutdown restrictions.
The Tolleson, Arizona, resident tested positive for COVID-19 the following day, and was hospitalized five days later.
He died on June 30, at age 65.
"Mark, like so many others, should not have died from COVID-19," Kristin Urquiza wrote in his obituary, which went viral and inspired others to write "#HonestObits."
"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."
National media attention helped Urquiza raise more than $30,000, which she used to cover her father's funeral expenses and get a COVID-19 prevention organization off the ground. "Marked by COVID" memorializes those lost to the disease online and in vigils and pushes for mitigation measures.
Urquiza has experience leading campaigns and lobbying government officials: She is a vice president at Waxman Strategies, a progressive, Washington, D.C.-based public relations and lobbying firm that describes her as "an expert in mobilizing public support, diplomacy and advocacy." Her work there focuses on marine conservation, according to the company.
Democratic leaders took notice of Urquiza's coronavirus-related advocacy efforts, tapping her to speak about her father and the policy failures she believes contributed to his death during the first day of the Democratic National Convention.
"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 during her live appearance. "Donald Trump may not have caused the coronavirus, but his dishonesty and irresponsible actions made it so much worse."
She echoed those comments Wednesday, saying it was "devastating to see that the president decided to not prioritize human lives."
"He should resign today, but I suspect he is too cowardly," she said.
Urquiza also had some words for the media, which she said must call Trump's tactics "what they are: lies."
And she lambasted the governors, members of Congress and other elected officials she deemed "complicit" in carrying out Trump's inadequate pandemic response.
"Our leaders can no longer feign ignorance regarding the severity of the pandemic and Trump’s purposeful down-playing of the situation," she said in a public statement, urging them to "immediately and publicly denounce the President’s tactics and implement data-driven public health measures."
Contributing: Emily Wilder and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, Arizona Republic
Follow reporter Maria Polletta on Twitter @mpolletta.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Bob Woodward book: Woman says Trump should resign over COVID response