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Congressman Clay Higgins says a prayer during a Republican rally Monday, October 7, 2019, at the Cajundome Convention Center in Lafayette, La.

A day after U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins revealed he is ill with COVID, he along with Rep. Garret Graves and Rep. Mike Johnson would not disclose Monday whether they have been vaccinated.

The other five members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation say they have received their COVID shot and are encouraging others to do so as well.

“The benefits vastly outweigh the costs,” U.S. Sen. John N. Kennedy, R-Madisonville, said in an interview.

Higgins made his announcement days after House Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise announced that he had gotten his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine against COVID.

On Monday, the Louisiana Department of Health announced that caseloads have surged because of the delta variant. Louisiana has the worst infection rates in the country.

Higgins, a Republican who represents Lafayette and Lake Charles, has repeatedly side-stepped questions about whether he has received the vaccine and has criticized pandemic restrictions while calling for the full re-opening of the economy.

He disclosed in a Facebook post Sunday that he, his wife Becca and his son have all been infected by the virus.

Higgins said he and Becca also contracted the virus in January 2020.

“This episode is far more challenging,” he wrote. “It has required all of my devoted energy. We are all under excellent care, and our prognosis is positive. We are very healthy generally speaking, and our treatment of any health concern always encompasses western, eastern, and holistic variables.”

In April, Higgins told the American Press that his father-in-law died from COVID-related complications in December.

Higgins said then that his office has “aggressively promoted” the availability of vaccines, but he opposed the federal government making vaccines mandatory.

“If you want to get vaccinated, get vaccinated,” he said in a May Facebook post. “If you want to wear a mask, wear a mask. If you don’t, then don’t. That’s your right as a free American.”

Higgins’ Facebook post on Sunday directed media inquiries to his Washington, D.C. office. But press secretary Andrew David did not respond to two emails on Monday.

Nor did Johnson, who represents northwest Louisiana in the U.S. House, or his press secretary.

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The office of Graves, a Republican from Baton Rouge, would say only, “Garret lost his father to COVID earlier this year. He has followed all medical guidance from his physician.”

Louisiana’s eight-member congressional delegation lost Rep.-elect Luke Letlow in December just days before he was to take office.

Following Letlow’s death, his widow Julia won the seat in a special election in March. The district stretches from Monroe south to St. Francisville and then east to Bogalusa.

She was vaccinated in March.

“We’re in a war with a silent killer,” Letlow said Monday. “We now have a tool to combat it. We don’t need any more stories like mine. I hope no one else has to lose their life.”

Scalise, a Republican who represents suburban New Orleans, received his first dose on July 18 and said afterward, “Especially with the delta variant becoming a lot more aggressive and seeing another spike, it was a good time to do it.” He called the vaccines “safe and effective.”

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, a physician and a Republican from Baton Rouge, has been vocal in touting the vaccines’ benefits.

“There are people who should not be dying who are dying from COVID infections,” he said on Bloomberg TV on Friday. “We had testimony from the CDC director. She said it’s an epidemic among the unvaccinated, 99.5% of the deaths are among those who have not been vaccinated.”

Cassidy added that if someone has qualms, “they shouldn’t be going on Facebook. They shouldn’t be listening to a politician. They should speak to their doctor. ...If you have a trusting relationship with them, I am hoping that moves folks to get vaccinated.”

U.S. Rep. Troy Carter, a Democrat from New Orleans who took office in May, said he took his 86-year-old mother to be vaccinated early this year and was inoculated later after he became eligible.

Carter said his message to constituents is: “Wake up. Wake up, people. The life you save might be your own. This is real. People have died. People are dying once again. We cannot afford to take any chances. This delta variant is real. If you have any friends who haven’t, do the right thing. Take them to get vaccinated.”

Kennedy said the vaccines were developed after years of research that received a huge push during the final year of the Trump administration.

He said he is so confident in the vaccine that “as soon as they give a green light on the booster, I’ll take it. I know it works.”


Email Tyler Bridges at tbridges@theadvocate.com.

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