Louisiana Congressman-elect dies of COVID-19

The news began breaking last night that Congressman-elect Luke Letlow passed away. Elected on December 5 in a run-off race, Letlow was just days away from being sworn in as Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District’s representative. It is a shocking and tragic story. Letlow is the first member of Congress (or Congressman-elect) to die of COVID-19 complications.

Luke Letlow’s battle with COVID-19 came on my radar several days ago when he was transferred to Shreveport as his illness grew worse. Shreveport is my hometown and Letlow’s home is in Richland Parish. What caught my eye was his age, only 41 years old. He is a Republican from Start, Louisiana. He and his wife Julia have two very young children – a son, Jeremiah who is 3 years old and a daughter Jacqueline who is 11 months old. Julia, according to her LinkedIn page is an “Executive Assistant to the President for External Affairs and Community Outreach at University of Louisiana at Monroe.” She has a Ph.D. in Communication. (No one refers to her as Dr. Julia.)

Letlow tested positive for COVID-19 and made the announcement on December 18. He quarantined at his home and was admitted to St. Francis Medical Center in Monroe, the largest hospital in Northeast Louisiana. When his illness grew worse, he was transferred to the Ochsner LSU Health ICU in Shreveport on Dec. 23. His death was ruled as a heart attack following a procedure. He had no underlying conditions. Governor John Bel Edwards made an announcement on social media last night. He ordered flags to be flown at half-staff on the day of Letlow’s funeral.

Tragically, Letlow died at age 41, the Louisiana governor has confirmed. According to LSU Health Shreveport Chancellor G.E. Ghali, Letlow died “from a heart attack following a procedure related to the infection,” the News Star reported.

“He had no underlying conditions,” Ghali said. “It was just COVID.”

“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,” Governor John Bel Edwards wrote on Twitter on December 29. “Louisiana has lost more than 7,300 people to COVID-19 since March, and each one of them leaves a tremendous hole in our state.”

Letlow was to succeed his former boss Congressman Ralph Abraham who didn’t seek reelection after honoring a pledge to serve a limit of three terms. Letlow had been Abraham’s chief of staff. He previously worked for former Governor Bobby Jindal. Louisiana’s 5th District is the largest geographically in the state. It covers 24 parishes. He won the election with 62% of the vote.

Just two days before his death, Julia posted on Facebook that Luke was recovering and the doctors were hopeful he was on the road to recovery. He was in stable condition. The hospital reports that he was being treated with the antiviral remdesivir and steroids.

“Thank you to everyone for your continued prayers and well wishes,” Julia Barnhill Letlow wrote on Facebook.

“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. We thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for the outpouring of support we have received and feel truly blessed to be touched by the prayers of so many. However, we are now asking for your patience as we face this battle privately as a family in order to give Luke the rest he needs to ensure his recovery. We will do our best to keep everyone informed on Luke’s progress through posts here and appreciate your understanding as we navigate this journey.”

She also wrote, “Please keep Luke lifted and all those who are facing covid❤️🙏”

In the aftermath of the shocking announcement of Letlow’s death, political ghouls were quick to blame President Trump for Letlow’s death. Trump has duped people, you know, about the coronavirus that came from China.

There was a poorly timed press release from the White House about the distribution of vaccines that collided with Letlow’s death announcement so that was fodder for the Trump-deranged, too.

All of the deaths from COVID-19 are tragic, of course, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that the coronavirus came from China. The Trump administration has made some mistakes and the federal government is a slow-moving behemoth that is never as efficient as we’d like it to be. All that aside, to continue to blame Trump personally for COVID-19 deaths is partisan political hackery. Letlow was, by all accounts, a 41-year-old man in good health when he became infected. I’m not a doctor but it seems that the steroids or the remdesivir caused damage to his heart that led to his heart attack. We are accustomed to hearing about lung damage with COVID-19 but heart attacks happen, too. There is a lot to still be learned about how this virus attacks the human body.

Letlow’s spokesman confirmed his death and said a statement from the family will come later.

Letlow spokesman Andrew Bautsch confirmed the congressman-elect’s death at Ochsner-LSU Health Shreveport on Letlow’s Facebook page.

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