A congressman-elect from Louisiana died from COVID-19 complications

By Bryan Pietsch

Luke Letlow, a Republican who was elected to the House of Representatives this month to represent Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District, died Tuesday evening of complications from COVID-19, a spokesman said. He was 41.

Letlow was set to take office on Sunday. His death was confirmed by several politicians, including Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana, who said in a Facebook post that the death of his friend and “former co-worker” was “a huge loss to Louisiana and America.”

Letlow died at the Ochsner-LSU Health hospital in Shreveport, Louisiana, the spokesman, Andrew Bautsch, said.

Letlow said on Dec. 18 that he was isolating at home after testing positive for the coronavirus. He was later hospitalized in Monroe, Louisiana, before being transferred to the hospital in Shreveport, Bautsch said on Dec. 23. Letlow had been receiving the antiviral drug remdesivir and steroids to treat his infection, Bautsch said.

On Dec. 21, while he was hospitalized in Monroe, Letlow urged people who had recovered from COVID-19 to donate their plasma. “Your plasma is ESPECIALLY needed by those who are suffering,” he wrote in a tweet. “I cannot stress this enough. Please consider saving lives by going out and donating at your local blood bank.”

He did not have any underlying health conditions that would have increased his chances of dying from COVID-19, Dr. G.E. Ghali, a doctor at the Shreveport hospital, told The Advocate in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Letlow, in a runoff earlier this month against another Republican, had been elected to succeed Rep. Ralph Abraham, whom Letlow had served as chief of staff.

Letlow is survived by his wife, Julia, and their two children, Jeremiah and Jacqueline.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement, “Tonight, the United States House of Representatives sadly mourns the passing of Congressman-elect Luke Letlow.

“Congressman-elect Letlow was a ninth-generation Louisianan who fought passionately for his point of view and dedicated his life to public service,” she said.

Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, said, “Our hearts break tonight as we process the news of Congressman-elect Luke Letlow’s passing.”

Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana said on Tuesday evening that COVID-19 had “taken Congressman-elect Letlow from us far too soon.” Edwards, a Democrat, said he had ordered flags to be flown at half-staff on the day of Letlow’s funeral.

Rep. Mike Johnson, a Republican who represents the state’s 4th Congressional District, issued a statement on behalf of the state’s six-member congressional delegation: “We are devastated to hear of Luke Letlow’s passing. Luke had such a positive spirit, and he had a tremendously bright future ahead of him. He was looking forward to serving the people of Louisiana in Congress, and we were excited to welcome him to our delegation where he was ready to make an even greater impact on our state and our nation.”

Bobby Jindal, the former governor of Louisiana whom Letlow had previously worked for when Jindal was a congressional candidate, representative and governor, said the congressman-elect “had talked in recent days about his excitement about the opportunity to serve” his district.

“I first met Luke when he was still a college student, and spent countless hours with him in his truck driving the back roads of Louisiana,” Jindal said. “His passion for service has been a constant throughout his life.”

According to Ballotopedia, Letlow is the first elected federal official to die from COVID; the first member of the federal government to die from it was a judge.

Other elected officials to die from COVID include several state legislators: a Republican state senator from Minnesota, New Hampshire’s new Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, and in North Dakota, David Dean Andahl, a Republican known as “Dakota Dave,” who was elected posthumously to the state House of Representatives after dying from the virus.

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