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Virginia state senator dies from COVID-19

Virginia state Sen. Ben Chafin (R) has died from complications due to COVID-19, his office announced Friday. He was 60. 

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and the Virginia Senate Republican Caucus confirmed the death of Chafin, who represented the state’s 38th District for the past six years.

"The family of Senator Chafin thank the VCU Medical Center in Richmond for its vigorous care and heartfelt support during his two weeks of medical services there," his office said in a statement, according to CBS’s Richmond affiliate station, WTVR.

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Northam wrote in a statement that "Southwest Virginia has lost a strong advocate — and we have all lost a good man."

"I knew Ben as a lawmaker, an attorney, a banker, and a farmer raising beef cattle in Moccasin Valley, working the land just as generations of his family had done before him," the governor said. "He pushed hard to bring jobs and investment to his district, and I will always be grateful for his courageous vote to expand health care for people who need it."

Northam has reportedly ordered the Virginia state flag to be flown at half-staff until sunset on the day of Chafin’s interment.

According to The Roanoke Times, lawmakers and others in political circles had heard about Chafin contracting the virus in mid-December when he was hospitalized at VCU.

While other Virginia lawmakers have contracted COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, Chafin is the first to die from complications. 

Fellow lawmakers expressed their condolences following news of Chafin’s death Friday, with state Senate Republican Leader Thomas Norment Jr. saying, “Ben Chafin has left us a legacy of the best in public service,” according to WTVR. 

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“He served to ensure that his region and community, and the people he loved, would never be forgotten,” Norment continued. “May we cherish his memory by emulating his dedication and commitment.”

The news comes just days after Louisiana Rep.-elect Luke Letlow (R) died of COVID-19 complications at the age of 41. He was slated to succeed retiring Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-La.), whom he previously served as chief of staff. 

Letlow was first admitted to St. Francis Medical Center due to complications from the coronavirus on Dec. 19 before being transferred to the Ochsner LSU Health ICU on Dec. 23. He suffered a heart attack following a procedure related to the virus.