Newly-elected Congressman dies of Covid-19 as US records 3,725 fatalities in a day

WASHINGTON: A newly-elected Republican Congressman from Louisiana became one of the highest-ranked politician to die from Covid-19 related complications on Tuesday even as officials in Colorado reported the first known case in the US of a person infected with the coronavirus variant that first surfaced in Britain.
Luke Letlow, 41, a former aide to Indian-American GOP veteran Bobby Jindal, died after a “cardiac event” that doctors said was not linked to any previous underlying heart condition but was Covid-related. Letlow had announced that he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus on December 18, was admitted to the hospital the next day, and according to his office, was placed in an ICU on December 23 where he was treated with remdesivir and steroids.
He appeared to be recovering before a sudden cardiac event ended his life just days before he was to be sworn into Congress, where Republican lawmakers have largely been disdainful of the coronavirus. Local reports said Letlow was inconsistent in his wearing of masks and had campaigned against pandemic restrictions.
“I first met Luke when he was still a college student, and spent countless hours with him in his truck driving the back roads of Louisiana,” Jindal wrote on Twitter. “His passion for service has been a constant throughout his life.”
The death jolted the US political establishment where dozens of lawmakers have tested positive for Covid-19, but with access to topline treatment, none have died. Former GOP Presidential candidate Herman Cain, an African-American cancer survivor, is the most prominent politician to die of a disease that is recorded as disproportionately killing minorities, particularly those with underlying other medical conditions.
Letlow’s death came even as a 20-year old man with no known travel history tested positive to the coronavirus variant outside Denver, Colorado, leading experts to reckon the new strain may already have a significant presence in America. The US is among countries that have not placed any travel ban from the UK
The new variant, which scientists say appears more contagious but is not leading to higher hospitalizations or death rates, has been detected in more than a dozen countries now, including in South Korea and Canada.
Vaccines being rolled out seem as effective against the variant and there is no sign that people infected to the first strain and have recovered are vulnerable to the variant, although, in a worrisome development, a nurse in California reportedly tested positive for Covid-19 more than a week after receiving Pfizer Inc’s vaccine.
Letlow’s death was announced on the day the US hit a record 3725 fatalities from Covid-19 with the total number of deaths surpassing 338,000. The US also reported the most Covid-19 hospitalizations, with more than 124,600 patients nationwide, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
But a pandemic-fatigued country continues to revolt against restrictions. Year-end holiday travel ticked up even as millions of eligible Americans are expected to find stimulus relief aid of $ 600 per head wired into their bank accounts starting Wednesday night.
President Trump is still insisting on bumping that up to $ 2000 per head, and in a strange political alignment, has support from Democrats on the issue, while the Republican establishment, concerned about the country’s mounting debt, is resisting it. US debt has gone up from $ 20 trillion when Trump took office to almost $ 28 trillion.

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