Luke Letlow, a Republican who was elected to the House of Representatives this month to represent Louisiana’s Fifth Congressional District, died Tuesday evening of complications from Covid-19, a spokesman said. He was 41.
Mr. Letlow was set to take office on Sunday. His death was confirmed by several politicians, including Representative 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.” Mr. Letlow died at the Ochsner L.S.U. Health medical center in Shreveport, La., said the spokesman, Andrew Bautsch.
Mr. Letlow said on Dec. 18 that he was isolating at home after testing positive for the coronavirus. He was hospitalized a day later in Monroe, La., before being transferred to the hospital in Shreveport on Dec. 22. Mr. Bautsch said on Dec. 23. that Mr. Letlow had been receiving the antiviral drug remdesivir and steroids to treat his infection.
On Dec. 21, while he was hospitalized in Monroe, Mr. Letlow urged people who had recovered from Covid-19 to donate 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 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, La.
In a runoff this month against another Republican, Mr. Letlow was elected to succeed Representative Ralph Abraham, whom Mr. Letlow had served as chief of staff.
Mr. Letlow is survived by his wife, Julia, and their two children, Jeremiah and Jacqueline.
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 Louisianian 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 Tuesday evening that Covid-19 had “taken Congressman-elect Letlow from us far too soon.” Mr. Edwards, a Democrat, said he had ordered flags to be flown at half-staff on the day of Mr. Letlow’s funeral.
Representative Mike Johnson, a Republican who represents the state’s Fourth 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 Mr. Letlow had previously worked for when Mr. 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,” Mr. Jindal said. “His passion for service has been a constant throughout his life.”
According to Ballotopedia, Mr. Letlow is the first elected federal official to die from the coronavirus; the first member of the federal government to die from it was a judge.
Other elected officials to die from Covid-19 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.