Louisiana Congressman-Elect Luke Letlow Dies of Coronavirus at 41

Louisiana Congressman-elect Luke Letlow, who had been scheduled to be sworn into Congress on Sunday, has died. He was 41.

Less than two weeks after testing positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Letlow died on Tuesday, multiple outlets report. He was being treated in the intensive care unit at Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport Academic Medical Center after having been transferred from St. Francis Hospital in Monroe, Louisiana.

"The family appreciates the numerous prayers and support over the past days but asks for privacy during this difficult and unexpected time," Letlow's spokesman Andrew Bautsch said in a statement, according to WBNS. "A statement from the family along with funeral arrangements will be announced at a later time."

Bautsch did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment Tuesday.

Letlow is reportedly the first member or member-elect to die from the contagious respiratory virus. He previously served as chief of staff to Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-La.) and would have filled that seat serving the state's fifth congressional district.

On Dec. 21, Letlow thanked followers for their support and prayers in a thread on Twitter days after announcing he was positive with the virus on Dec. 18.

"I am currently undergoing treatment for COVID-19 at St. Francis Hospital by a wonderful team of doctors and nurses," he wrote at the time. "I am confident that with their help that I will be on the mend soon."

"I also believe strongly in the power of prayer, and our family has been blessed by a praying army of people. While here, I've learned firsthand how important plasma and blood donations are during this pandemic," Letlow continued, encouraging those who have survived COVID-19 to donate their plasma.

"It may very well be the gift of life that you are giving a family this Christmas," he concluded the thread.

Two days later, Bautsch said in a statement shared to the politician's Twitter that Letlow had been transferred to the Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport Academic Medical Center, where he was receiving Remdesivir and steroids.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards confirmed Letlow's death on Twitter Tuesday.

"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," Edwards wrote in a thread. "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."

"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," he continued. "I hope all of the people of Louisiana will join Donna and me in praying for Congressman-elect Letlow’s family, especially his wife Julia and their two children, his many friends, and the people of the 5th Congressional District."

Saying that flags will be flown at half-staff on the day of Letlow's funeral, Edwards added, "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."

Louisiana has had at least 304,485 cases of COVID-19, with at least 7,397 deaths related to the virus. Nationwide, there have been more than 19.5 million cases and at least 338,711 deaths from COVID-19.

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