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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Cardiologists are increasingly concerned that coronavirus infections could cause heart complications that lead to sudden cardiac death in athletes.

Why it matters: Even if just a tiny percentage of COVID-19 cases lead to major cardiac conditions, the sheer scope of the pandemic raises the risk for those who regularly conduct the toughest physical activity — including amateurs who might be less aware of the danger.

Driving the news: Both the Big 10 and Pac-12 conferences announced this week that they wouldn't play college football in the fall because of health concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • According to ESPN, a major factor driving those decisions has been fear that COVID-19 could lead to a rise in myocarditis among athletes.

Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart caused by viral infections that can lead to rapid or abnormal heart rhythms and even sudden cardiac death.

  • Myocarditis causes about 75 deaths per year in young athletes between the ages of 13 and 25, often without any warning. The 27-year-0lld Boston Celtics star Reggie Lewis collapsed at a practice and soon died from myocarditis in 1993.
  • While research is still in its infancy, a July study of 100 adult patients in Germany had recovered from COVID-19 found that 60% had findings of ongoing myocardial inflammation.
  • Worryingly, patients with mild COVID-19 symptoms developed myocarditis as frequently as those who were hospitalized, raising the possibility that those who may not even know they have COVID-19 could be at risk.
  • That's important because athletes with myocarditis must cease intense physical activity for weeks or even months until the conditions clears up. Otherwise, says Emory University sports cardiologist Jonathan Kim, they put themselves in danger of "cardiac arrest and a catastrophic outcome."

By the numbers: NCAA chief medical officer Brian Hainline said in a press call Thursday that at least a dozen college athletes so far had been found to have myocarditis after testing positive for COVID-19.

College athletes and to a greater extent professional ones have the benefit of more frequent COVID-19 tests and oversight from doctors who know to look out for signs of myocarditis.

  • But amateur athletes may be largely on their own, even though they too would be at risk from myocarditis and sudden death should they continue to engage in vigorous exercise after a COVID-19 infection.
  • "For your high-end marathoners and triathletes, [myocarditis] is a reasonable consideration," says Kim. "It's something to discuss with your doctor or consult with a sports cardiologist before you get back to training."
  • Yes, but: Those of us who exercise to stay healthy but have no intention of entering the Ironman Triathlon likely don't have much to worry about.

The bottom line: The more we learn about COVID-19, the more varied the threat it poses becomes. But little seems scarier then the possibility of sudden cardiac death in the fittest among us.

Go deeper

Nov 23, 2020 - Politics & Policy

California governor and family in quarantine after coronavirus exposure

California Gov. Gavin Newsom. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) tweeted late Sunday that he and his family are quarantining after being exposed to COVID-19.

Details: Newsom said they learned Friday that three of his children had come into contact with a California Highway Patrol officer who tested positive for the coronavirus. "Thankfully, the entire family tested negative today," Newsom said.

Updated Nov 24, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Sen. Kelly Loeffler to return to campaign trail after 2nd negative test

Sen. Kelly Loeffler addresses supporters during a rally on Thursday. Photo: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

Sen. Kelly Loeffler's (R-Ga.) campaign announced Monday that she "looks forward to getting back out on the campaign trail" after testing negative for COVID-19 for a second time, following earlier conflicting results.

Why it matters: Loeffler has been campaigning at events ahead of a Jan. 5 runoff in elections that'll decide which party holds the Senate majority. Vice President Mike Pence was with her on Friday.

Operation Warp Speed leader: COVID vaccine push is "isolated from a political environment"

Moncef Slaoui in the Rose Garden on Nov. 13. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Moncef Slaoui, the White House's top scientific adviser to Operation Warp Speed, told Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press" on Sunday that the Trump administration's efforts to accelerate the development of a coronavirus vaccine is "isolated from a political environment" and that a change in administration "doesn't, frankly, make a difference" on its efficacy.

Why it matters: Slaoui told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Sunday that he has not yet had contact with Joe Biden's transition team, as the president-elect prepares to inherit one of the country's biggest crises ahead of an expected vaccine distribution effort that would require massive logistical cooperation between states and the federal government.