A 41-year-old Republican elected for the first time to the US House of Representatives died on Tuesday of complications related to Covid-19.
Luke Letlow is the first American lawmaker to die in the pandemic that is witnessing a new surge amid concerns about the availability of vaccines, as conveyed by President-elect Joe Biden.
Letlow, elected to the House from Louisiana state was to take office on Sunday when the new Congress will be sworn in. He reported Covid positive on December 18 and was transferred to a hospital on December 22. Doctors at the hospital told The Advocate that Letlow had no underlying conditions.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said in a statement, “Tonight, the United States House of Representatives sadly mourns the passing of Congressman-elect Luke Letlow.
Kevin McCarthy, the top Republican in the House, said, “Our hearts break tonight as we process the news of Congressman-elect Luke Letlow’s passing.”
A number of top US elected officials and aides have been infected by the deadly virus, including outgoing President Donald Trump, members of his family and cabinet such as Ben Carson, the housing secretary. Many among them reported going into isolation after potential exposure.
The United States has been hit the hardest by Covid-19, with close to 20 million cases and more than 338,000 deaths. A new surge is underway as winter has set in, driving indoors all activities, howsoever limited and restricted. More than 200,000 infections and 3,700 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.
Millions of Americans received their first shots of the two-dose vaccines either from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna in the past few days, but the rollout has been hobbled by delays.
“The Trump administration’s plan to distribute vaccines is falling behind, far behind,” Biden said on Tuesday, in a blistering attack on the incumbent administration.
“A few weeks ago, the Trump Administration suggested that 20 million Americans could be vaccinated by the end of December. With only a few days left in December, we have only vaccinated a few million so far. At the pace the vaccination programme is moving now, it would take years, not months, to vaccinate the American people.”
The president-elect, who ran on the promise of according top priority to combating the pandemic, said that once in office — after January 20 — he will use presidential war powers accorded in the Defense Production Act to speed up the production of material needed for vaccines.
Trump, who has seemed more focused on overturning his electoral defeat to Biden, tried to shift blame for the delays to the states. “The Federal Government has distributed the vaccines to the states,” he wrote in a tweet. “Now it is up to the states to administer. Get moving!”