SHREVEPORT, Louisiana–December 29th, 2020–In a shocking event, even by the standards of 2020, it has been announced that Luke Letlow, Louisiana’s incoming Republican member of the U.S. House, died Tuesday night from complications related to COVID-19 only days before he was due to be sworn into office.
He was just 41 years old and had no known prior medical issues, it was said.
The 41-year-old died just 11 days after announcing he had tested positive for COVID-19. At the time, he said he was at home, ‘resting, following all CDC guidelines, quarantine protocols, and the recommendations of my doctors’.
Ahead of being diagnosed with coronavirus, Letlow held multiple campaign events, including meet-and-greets where people did not wear masks although they appeared to be standing six feet apart.
On December 19, Letlow said he was undergoing treatment at St Francis Hospital in Monroe. Three days after being admitted, his office said he had been transferred to Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport Academic Medical Center.
At the time, the married father-of-two was in stable condition and was being treated Remdesivir and steroids – the same treatment President Trump was given.
Letlow, who was due to be sworn into office on Sunday, died on Tuesday night.
His death comes on the day the number of single day fatalities related to the virus reached a record 3,725, and the total number of deaths during the pandemic surpassed 338,000. Hospitalizations have also reached a pandemic high of more than 124,000.
LSU Health Shreveport Chancellor G.E. Ghali said Letlow died from a heart attack following a procedure related to the infection.
‘It’s devastating to our entire team,’ Ghali said. ‘He had no underlying conditions. It was just COVID.’
Letlow is one of more than 7,000 people in Louisiana who have died from COVID-19 since March, according to data from the state health department.
Letlow, from the small town of Start in Richland Parish, was elected in a December runoff election for Louisiana’s sprawling 5th District U.S. House seat representing central and northeastern regions of the state, including the cities of Monroe and Alexandria.
He was to fill the seat being vacated by his boss, Republican Ralph Abraham. Letlow had been Abraham’s chief of staff and ran with Abraham’s backing for the job.
The following statement was issued by his campaign manager Andrew Bautsch on Tuesday night: ‘Congressman-elect Luke Letlow, 41, passed away this evening at Ochsner-LSU Health Shreveport due to complications from COVID-19.
‘Letlow was admitted into a Monroe Hospital on December 19 after testing positive for the coronavirus and was transferred to Ochsner-LSU Health on Tuesday, December 22, and placed in intensive care.
‘Letlow is survived by his wife, Julia Barnhill Letlow, Phd., and two young children.
‘The family appreciates the numerous prayers and support over the past days but asks for privacy during this difficult and unexpected time.
‘A statement from the family along with funeral arrangements will be announced at a later time.’
When he announced his positive test for COVID-19, Letlow joined a list of Louisiana officials who have contracted the coronavirus since the pandemic began, including U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, Attorney General Jeff Landry, Treasurer John Schroder, U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson and U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond.
Letlow, a Republican, won a runoff election on December 5 for the 5th District seat, which represents Northeast and Central Louisiana, and was due to be sworn in on Sunday.
He secured the seat with 62 percent of the vote and would have been Rep. Ralph Abraham’s successor who didn’t seek reelection after honoring a pledge to serve a limit of three terms.
He is the first member or member-elect of Congress to die from the coronavirus.
In the run-up to the election, Letlow held multiple campaign events including meet-and-greets where people did not wear masks but appeared to be standing six feet apart.
On other occasions while campaigning, he was seen to be wearing a mask.
On December 18, he tweeted his diagnosis, saying: ‘Thank you to everyone for your kind words and prayers. I have tested positive for COVID-19.
‘I’m at home resting, following all CDC guidelines, quarantine protocols, and the recommendations of my doctors.’
It’s unclear if any of his family has the virus. Letlow was married with two young children.
Louisiana State Fire Marshal Butch Browning shared a statement following the news of Letlow’s death:
‘This is a stunning loss that is hard to swallow. Luke was a longtime personal friend and avid supporter of the fire service and law enforcement, even serving as a volunteer firefighter in north Louisiana. The state has truly lost the opportunity to have a world-class ambassador on its side.’
Letlow has spent his career in politics.
He arrived in Abraham’s office in 2014 after a stint working for a Denver energy company in governmental relations but he seemed as though he had been preparing for Congress all of his life ever since he was president of the College Republicans at Louisiana Tech University.
He interned for former Louisiana Republican 5th District Congressman John Cooksey of Monroe and was so keen to be involved after returning home he became Cooksey’s driver in 2001 while still in college.
Letlow then managed to become involved with Bobby Jindal working on his failed 2003 governor’s campaign.
When Jindal finally became Louisiana’s Republican Governor from 2008 to 2016, Letlow was there once again, working as a senior staffer for the young governor during his first term.