Luke Letlow had a lot in common with other Americans dying from Covid-19. At 41 he was not old and he had no known previous illnesses. His death on Tuesday caused sadness and dismay among politicians at the Capitol in Washington. Letlow had just won a by-election in Louisiana’s fifth congressional district and was due to be sworn in as a member of the House of Representatives in a few days. The Republican was the highest ranking politician to die of Covid-19. Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy, who had the coronavirus himself, said Letlow’s death was “a very clear reminder that the virus kills.” To date, more than 340,000 people in the United States have died after being infected with the coronavirus.
Letlow had long been active in his state’s politics, colleagues remembered him as a “rising star” in the party. He worked first for the former governor Bobby Jindal and later as chief of staff of the MP Ralph Abraham, who did not run again and won his seat Letlow. His electorate base was in rural Louisiana. There Letlow called for compliance with corona protective measures, but also advocated for the economy to reopen soon. He praised Donald Trump for his policy in the Corona crisis and expressed skepticism about mandatory mask wear. Politicians have a problem whenever they issue regulations that cannot be enforced by the security authorities, he said in an interview. Letlow called on the hospital to donate blood and plasma during the pandemic.
50 Congress politicians infected since the start of the pandemic
According to the radio station NPR, a total of fifty politicians and 220 employees have been infected with the virus in Congress. A Florida MP employee died from it that summer. After Louie Gohmert, Republican MP from Texas, tested positive in July, stricter rules were in place, at least in the House of Representatives. Gohmert is an opponent of the protective measures and had attended meetings several times without a mask. In the meantime, the security forces in the Capitol can ask people without a mask to leave the building. Vaccinations for all members of Congress have also started.
The late MP Letlow was not among those who downplayed the virus itself. Quite a few of his party friends have been doing this since the beginning of the pandemic. Trump, who infected himself in late summer and staged his quick recovery in front of the cameras for days, fired protests against the protective measures. He held mass rallies at which many people did not obey the rules of protection. Among them was 74-year-old former presidential candidate Herman Cain. He was against wearing a mask and showed himself without mouth and nose protection at Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa on June 20. On July 30th, he died of Covid-19.
Trump also hosted events in and in front of the White House where Republicans without protective masks jostled each other – hundreds of employees entertained and protected them. The celebration for the nomination of Supreme Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett in September quickly became a superspreading event. In addition to Trump and his wife Melania, dozens of other participants later tested positive, including Senators Mike Lee from Utah and Thom Tillis from North Carolina.
Nothing was known about the difficult course of the politicians. The White House did not provide any information about the welfare of employees – and no one could seriously determine how many people carried the virus on from the celebration. Trump’s election party on November 3rd was also responsible for several infections. Ex-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski then tested positive, as did Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. American media reported that over a hundred Secret Service security employees have been infected on the job so far
Despite efforts by the White House not to reveal any information about the employees, one story emerged: that of Security Chief Crede Bailey. Bailey is said to have been infected by the lack of precautionary measures on Pennsylvania Avenue. He lost his right foot and part of his leg due to complications from Covid-19. Like millions of other Americans, Bailey’s friends reached out to the public through the GoFundMe website to raise funds for the high medical expenses.