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Luke Letlow, 41, Held Maskless Campaign Events. He Died Before Taking His Seat in Congress.

Luke Letlow, seen here during a maskless indoor campaign event in November, died of COVID-19 this evening at age 41. He leaves behind a wife and two children. / Photo: Luke Letlow campaign

Congressman-elect Luke Letlow has died in a Shreveport, La., hospital 11 days after announcing he had tested positive for COVID-19. WDSU first broke the news of Letlow’s death this evening.

“Congressman-elect Luke Letlow, 41, passed away this evening at Ochsner-LSU Health Shreveport due to complications from COVID-19,” Letlow campaign manager Andrew Bautsch said in a statement this evening.

Letlow, a Republican, won Louisiana’s open 5th District seat earlier this month and would have taken office in the U.S. Congress next week.

The late congressman-elect announced his diagnosis on Dec. 18 and a Monroe, La., hospital admitted him the next day.

“Letlow is survived by his wife, Julia Barnhill Letlow, Phd., and two young children,” Bautsch said. “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.”

Campaign Held Maskless Events

Letlow’s campaign has not announced information about how he contracted COVID-19 or if they know the source of his infection. Photos on his social media accounts, though, show that he repeatedly held maskless indoor campaign events over the course of the campaign. Photos of some events do show him and others wearing masks, however.

Public health experts have urged people not to hold large indoor gatherings and, when indoors in a public place, to wear a mask. While mask wearing does not guarantee that an individual will not contract COVID-19 when out in public, studies have found that it significantly reduces the risk.

Leaders across the nation and the political spectrum offered their condolences this evening.

“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 Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, wrote, announcing that he has ordered flags to fly at half staff in Letlow’s honor.

Luke Letlow: Donate Plasma, Blood

Four days before Christmas, Letlow shared some of his final thoughts in a tweet thread.

“While here, I’ve learned firsthand how important plasma and blood donations are during this pandemic,” he tweeted from his hospital bed. “For those who’ve had Covid already, your plasma is ESPECIALLY needed by those who are suffering. I cannot stress this enough.

“Please consider saving lives by going out and donating at your local blood bank. It may very well be the gift of life that you are giving a family this Christmas. – Luke Letlow”