Louisiana Congressman-elect Luke Letlow dies from COVID-19 complications


WEST MONROE, La. (KTVE/KTAL) — Newly elected Louisiana Congressman Luke Letlow has died at a Shreveport hospital from complications related to COVID-19. He was 41.

“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,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

Letlow tested positive for the coronavirus on December 18 and had been receiving treatment at St. Francis Medical Center in Monroe, but was transferred to Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport on December 23, where he remained in the ICU until his death.

Dr. G.E. Ghali, of LSU Health Shreveport, told The Advocate that Letlow didn’t have any underlying health conditions that would have placed him at greater risk of developing complications from COVID-19.

The Republican Congressman-elect was due to be sworn into the 117th United States Congress next week, after winning the 5th Congressional District seat with 62% of the vote in a Dec. 5 runoff election against fellow Republican, state Rep. Lance Harris of Alexandria.

He was set to succeed his former boss, Rep. Ralph Abraham, a Republican from Alto, who didn’t seek reelection. Letlow had been Abraham’s chief of staff.

Louisiana’s eight-member congressional delegation called Letlow’s death devastating.

“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,” they said in a statement.

Letlow is survived by his wife, Julia Barnhill Letlow, Phd., and two young children.

In a statement shared on Letlow’s campaign Facebook page on Sunday, December 27, his wife thanked everyone for their continued prayers and well wishes.

“While Luke continues his treatment and remains in stable condition, the doctors have told us the road to recovery and the length of time is hard to predict and different for everyone.”

However, the family also asked for supporters’ patience “as we face this battle privately as a family in order to give Luke the rest he needs to ensure his recovery.”

“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,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a statement late Tuesday evening, offering condolences to Letlow’s family and announcing that he has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff on the day of his funeral.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi also issued a statement late Tuesday.

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. 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.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi 

Letlow was the third high-profile Louisiana politician in two days to say he had been infected. Democratic U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, who is leaving Congress to become a member of President-elect Joe Biden’s White House staff, and Republican Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser have also tested positive and recovered from the virus.

Two Republicans in Louisiana’s congressional delegation — U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy and U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson — have publicly said they’ve recovered from the virus.

Bill Cassidy, a Republican and doctor, posted in a Twitter video: “It just, just, just, just brings home COVID can kill. For most folks it doesn’t, but it truly can. So, as you remember Luke, his widow, his children in your prayers, remember as well to be careful with COVID.”

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