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Tue Oct 27, 2020, 07:44 AM

'Still killing us': The federal government underfunded health care for Indigenous people for centuri

GALLUP, N.M. Ė Melvina Musket stared at her dying father through the cellphone screen. His mouth hung open, his eyes were clamped shut and a beard covered his chin. She heard nurses crying in the background.

ďJesus is waiting for you,Ē she told him.

Musket, 52, had never seen her father with facial hair. Benjamin Musket, 80, was a former Marine, a retired machinery mechanic, a basketball coach and a board member at their church. He didnít do beards.

The family had been cautious when the pandemic arrived. Four generations of Muskets lived on a sheep ranch in McKinley County, New Mexico, and her father was an elderly diabetic on dialysis. They didnít shop at their local stores, where too many people neglected to wear masks, instead driving nearly five hours roundtrip to Albuquerque for groceries. When they returned home, they wiped down every purchase and took showers.

The novel coronavirus came all the same. One day in May, Benjamin Musket started coughing. Twelve hours later, he was gasping.

In town, the understaffed Gallup Indian Medical Center, run by the federal governmentís Indian Health Service, was filled with cases. When the staff saw Benjamin Musket had a heart infection and COVID-19, they flew him to a hospital in Albuquerque, over 100 miles away. A few weeks later, he was dead.

In the days after Benjamin Musket became ill, nearly everyone in the family tested positive.

Melvina Musket was hospitalized with a high fever. The medical center staff put cold compresses under her arms to cool her down.


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