Covid-19 Claims Recently Elected Louisiana Congressman at 41

“COVID-19 has taken Congressman-elect Letlow from us far too soon. I am heartbroken that he will not be able to serve our people as a U.S. Representative,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards.

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U.S. Capitol Building. Washington, D.C. (photo: Jonathan Cutrer)

Congressman-elect Luke Letlow, who won a runoff to represent Louisiana’s 5th congressional district, died Tuesday from complications of COVID-19. Letlow, 41, announced that he tested positive for Covid-19 on Dec. 18 and was admitted to a Monroe hospital the following day. When his condition intensified, he was transferred to the intensive care unit.

Letlow served as chief of staff for the former Rep. Ralph Abraham before winning his election this past November. Letlow would have been sworn into Congress on Sunday. He is the first member or member-elect to die from the coronavirus, though dozens of lawmakers have tested positive over the past year.

“The family appreciates the numerous prayers and support over the past days but asks for privacy during this difficult and unexpected time,” said Andrew Bautsch, Letlow’s spokesman. “A statement from the family along with funeral arrangements will be announced at a later time.”

Letlow leaves behind his wife, Julia Barnhill Letlow, and two young children, according to a statement on Facebook from Bautsch.

Letlow’s colleagues on Capitol Hill shared their condolences at the news of his passing. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a statement that “our hearts break tonight as we process the news.”

“Our hearts break tonight as we process the news of Congressman-elect Luke Letlow’s passing,” McCarthy wrote on Twitter. “I spoke with his wife, Julia. Judy and I are praying for her and their two young children during this terrible time.”

The Louisiana delegation, led by House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, issued a joint statement offering their condolences.

Luke had such a positive spirit, and 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,” the statement said.

“More than anything, Luke was a loving husband, father, brother, and son, and his family — like so many others who have been affected by this evil disease — needs our prayers.”

South Carolina Senator Tim Scott wrote on Twitter, “Another devastating blow during an already difficult year. Deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Congressman-elect Luke Letlow. His wife, Julia, and his two young children are in my prayers.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “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. May it be a comfort to Luke’s wife Julia and their children Jeremiah and Jacqueline that so many mourn their loss and are praying for them at this sad time,” she said.

Governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards also offered his condolences on Twitter.

“It is with heavy hearts that @FirstLadyOfLA and I offer our condolences to Congressman-elect Luke Letlow’s family on his passing after a battle with COVID-19. #lagov. Congressman-elect Letlow felt a calling from a young age to serve the people of his home state, working behind the scenes for former Governor Bobby Jindal and serving as chief of staff to Congressman Ralph Abraham, who he was recently elected to succeed,” he said.

“COVID-19 has taken Congressman-elect Letlow from us far too soon. I am heartbroken that he will not be able to serve our people as a U.S. Representative, but I am even more devastated for his loving family,” Gov. Edwards added.

Almost 7,400 people have died from COVID-19 in Louisiana.

(Contributing journalist, Allegra Nokaj) (Contributing writer, Brooke Bell)

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