Congressman-Elect Luke Letlow Dies from COVID-19

Just a few days before he was to be sworn-in as the federal representative from Louisiana’s 5th Congressional Distric, Luke Letlow has passed away from complications of COVID-19 infection. According to National Public Radio, Mr. Letlow, 41, had been fighting the infection since mid-December. His condition deteriorated, and he died on Tuesday, December 29, 2020. He leaves behind a wife and two children.

Representative-Elect Luke Letlow (R-LA), image by “Startbosshogg” on Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

Unfortunately, Mr. Letlow is not alone in dying in the United States in this pandemic. As of December 30, 2020, Johns Hopkins University researchers have reported over 338,000 COVID-related deaths from data compiled from local and state health departments. Mr. Letlow is not alone in being a member of Congress dying during a pandemic from the infectious agent causing the pandemic — although he was elected but not sworn-in. In October 1918, Jacob Edwin Meeker, a representative from Missouri, died from the Spanish Flu at the age of 40. In January 1919, Edward Everett Robbins, a representative from Pennsylvania, also died of influenza. He was 58 years of age. And, in February 1920, William Patterson Borland, also a representative from Missouri, died in Germany while on a trip there. He was 52 years of age.

On the Senate side, no senators were reported to have died from influenza during the 1918-1919 pandemic. However, in 1918, a total of seven senators did die from other causes, the most ever in a one year span. In the United States, about 675,000 people died from influenza in that pandemic, a number that would translate to about 2,010,000 after adjusting for population differences from then to now.

Author: René F. Najera, DrPH

I am the editor of the History of Vaccines site, an online project by the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. All opinions expressed on these blog posts are not necessarily those of the College or any of my employers. Check out my professional profile on LinkedIn: Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @EpiRen