Louisiana Congressman-elect Luke Letlow died on Tuesday evening after being diagnosed with Covid-19, his spokesperson confirmed. Letlow, who was 41 years old, is the first member or member-elect to die from the coronavirus, although dozens of lawmakers have tested positive for Covid-19 over the past year.
He had announced on December 18 on his Facebook page that he had tested positive for Covid-19 and was first quarantining at his Richland Parish home. However, the very next day he was transferred to St. Francis as symptoms persisted and eventually he was admitted to Shreveport, where he died from coronavirus-related complications.
Nation Mourns Letlow's Death
Letlow's death was confirmed by his spokesman Andrew Bautsch on his Facebook page on Tuesday night. "The family appreciates the numerous prayers and support over the past days but asks for privacy during this difficult and unexpected time," Bautsch said in a statement.
Letlow is survived by his wife, Julia Barnhill Letlow, and two young children. A statement from the family along with funeral arrangements will be announced later. News of Letlow's death was met with an immediate outpouring of support for the congressman-elect's family.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also paid him tribute to Letlow: "Congressman-elect Letlow was a ninth-generation Louisianan who fought passionately for his point of view and dedicated his life to public service. As the House grieves Congressman-elect Letlow's passing, our sorrow is compounded by the grief of so many other families who have also suffered lives cut short by this terrible virus."
December has turned out to be the deadliest month in the United States since the pandemic broke. The nation reported 124,686 coronavirus patients in hospitals Tuesday, the most recorded on a given day during the pandemic, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
Gone Too Soon
Letlow's death is not only tragic but also one of the rare instances of a candidate being elected to Congress but dying before he could be sworn in. One notable instance was Jack Swigert, a former astronaut who was elected to a House seat in Colorado in 1982 but died of cancer in late December.
Letlow had won the 5th Congressional District wherein he beat fellow Republican Lance Harris in a runoff election on December 5 by 62 to 38 percent, according to the secretary of state's website. He would have succeeded his former boss Congressman Ralph Abraham, R-Alto, who didn't seek reelection after honoring a pledge to serve a limit of three terms. Letlow had also served as Abraham's chief of staff.
Louisiana's Fifth District covers the northeast part of the state and is the largest geographically in the state covering 24 parishes. His death occurred less than a week before the new Congress is sworn in on January 3.