Louisiana congressman-elect Luke Letlow died Tuesday of COVID-19 at Ochsner-LSU Health Shreveport, his campaign manager confirmed. The 41-year-old Republican had announced his COVID-19 diagnosis just 11 days earlier.
Letlow defeated representative Lance Harris in a December 5 runoff election to become the representative for Louisiana's 5th Congressional district. He was set to replace Republican Ralph Abraham, who served for three terms, and for whom Letlow served as chief of staff.
"There are no words for this loss," Abraham said in a statement. "There was no one like Luke Letlow, and there was no one who loved this state and its people more. Luke was a part of our family, and we are so incredibly proud of the man he was. Luke leaves behind a legacy of service, a love for his community, and a love and understanding of people of every walk of life that will forever be unmatched."
Just two weeks after the win, Letlow announced he had tested positive for COVID-19. Within days, the congressman-elect was hospitalized. On December 23, a representative for Letlow said he was in "stable condition" in an intensive care unit and was receiving Remdesivir and steroids.
He is survived by his wife and two young children.
"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," Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said Tuesday in a statement. "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."
Flags in the state will fly at half-staff on the day of Letlow's funeral, Edwards said. Funeral details and arrangements have not yet been announced.
Louisiana Secretary of State Robert Kyle Ardoin tweeted that "hearts are heavy" and that Letlow was a "man who dedicated his short life to the betterment of our state and our nation."
Louisiana Representative Mike Johnson tweeted he is "in shock tonight, and at a loss for adequate words." He and the other five members of the state's congressional delegation issued a joint statement, saying they are "devastated" by Letlow's death.
"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," they 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, need our prayers."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also offered words of condolence, saying 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," Pelosi added.
Over the past few months, Letlow has posted numerous photos of himself and dozens of others at campaign and community events without masks and without social distancing. He had also pushed for states to "reopen the economy" amid the pandemic.
More than 304,000 people in Louisiana have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University. Nationwide, there have been more than 19.5 million cases and more than 338,000 deaths.