In this March 2020 photo provided by Gilead Sciences, rubber stoppers are placed onto filled vials of the investigational drug remdesivir at a Gilead manufacturing site in the United States.  (Gilead Sciences via AP)
In this March 2020 photo provided by Gilead Sciences, rubber stoppers are placed onto filled vials of the investigational drug remdesivir at a Gilead manufacturing site in the United States. (Gilead Sciences via AP)

Accurate information is essential during a public health crisis, so with that in mind, we’ve answered several important questions about coronavirus, starting with a deep dive into remdesivir.

Editor’s Note: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized emergency use of remdesivir to help treat some patients hospitalized with COVID-19.

On Wednesday, news broke that there might finally be an effective treatment for the disease that has sickened more than one million Americans and effectively shut down society.

Scientists announced the antiviral drug remdesivir had been effective in speeding the recovery of COVID-19 patients in a trial study. The study’s findings spurred hope among public health officials, and the New York Times reported that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is likely to imminently announce an emergency-use authorization for the drug.

Word of a possible breakthrough is all but certain to cause worried or sick Americans to try to obtain the drug, which as of now, is not available for purchase anywhere in the world. Still, Google searches for remdesivir surged after this week’s news. As enthusiasm for the drug’s potential grows, however, it’s also likely to lead to rampant confusion and misinformation about what remdesivir can really do. 

In fact, such confusion and misinformation have become the new norm during the coronavirus pandemic. A new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll found that Americans are unsettled as they try to digest the enormous volume of information about the coronavirus and separate truth from fiction. 

Accurate information is essential during a public health crisis, so with that in mind, we’ve answered several important questions about coronavirus, starting with a deep dive into remdesivir.

What Is Remdesivir? Is It Safe? Will It Cure Coronavirus?

Remdesivir is an experimental antiviral drug that was originally developed in the fight against Ebola, but failed to effectively treat that virus in preliminary trials. The drug has not yet been approved for treatment of any condition anywhere in the world, but has been used in studies and trials analyzing its effectiveness in treating COVID-19. One of those studies—the findings of which were released yesterday by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases— found that patients who took remdesivir recovered faster and appeared more likely to survive than patients who did not.

“Preliminary results indicate that patients who received remdesivir had a 31% faster time to recovery than those who received placebo. Specifically, the median time to recovery was 11 days for patients treated with remdesivir compared with 15 days for those who received placebo,” NIH wrote in its report. “Results also suggested a survival benefit, with a mortality rate of 8.0% for the group receiving remdesivir versus 11.6% for the placebo group.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was optimistic about the results, saying the data showed remdesivir has a “clear-cut, significant, positive effect” in helping patients recover faster.

“Although a 31% improvement doesn’t seem like a knockout 100%, it is very important proof of concept,” Fauci said of remdesivir. “What it has proven is that a drug can block this virus.”

Fauci cautioned that the results of the study still needed to be peer-reviewed, but was nonetheless optimistic that the drug would become “the standard of care” for patients with COVID-19.

Other scientists similarly urged caution and Dr. Michele Barry, a global health expert at Stanford University, told the New York Times that while she had faith in Fauci’s assessment, it was “unusual to call a drug the ‘standard of care’ until peer review of data and publication, and before studies have shown benefit in mortality.”

The FDA says it is working with the drug’s manufacturer, Gilead Sciences, at “lightning speed” to review data on the drug’s effectiveness and quickly make it available to patients via an emergency use authorization. This would allow doctors to prescribe the drug to patients for treatment of COVID-19.

Until the drug is officially approved, which could happen in the coming days, your best bet remains to contact your doctor and follow CDC guidance. If and when remdesivir is authorized by the FDA, you can ask your doctor about it. 

But it’s important to note that the drug is not a cure for the coronavirus. 

“The drug isn’t a home run but will probably benefit some patients, especially when used early in disease course for patients at higher risk of bad outcomes,” former head of the FDA Scott Gottlieb wrote on Wednesday.

Can Coronavirus Be Transmitted Through Food?

As the number of coronavirus outbreaks at the nation’s meat processing plants has grown in recent weeks, so have concerns that sick meat plant workers might unknowingly contaminate the nation’s food supply with the virus.

There is no evidence, however, that the coronavirus can be transmitted through food, according to the CDC. It may be possible to contract COVID-19 by touching a surface or object (such as food packaging) that the virus is on, and then touching your own mouth, nose, or possibly your eyes, so the CDC advises washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before and after eating or preparing foods, including raw meat. 

RELATED: Union Leader: We Wish Trump Cared About People as Much as He Does Meat

It also “seems unlikely” that COVID-19 can be transmitted through food itself, according to the CDC. But in the extremely unlikely scenario your meat (other food) has the coronavirus on it, cooking it will kill the virus because it does not like heat. 

Can The Coronavirus Be Transmitted Through Air?

There is perhaps no question with more conflicting answers this one. Put simply: We don’t really know.

Several studies have found proof that the coronavirus can float in the air in small particles, known as aerosols, but the evidence remains inconclusive as to whether these particles are infectious, and no such cases have been confirmed. At the current moment, scientists and public health experts largely agree that the virus mostly spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets that travel only a couple feet before falling to the floor or ground. These larger droplets are generated when people breathe, speak or cough, and not through the smaller aerosol particles that remain suspended in the air. 

“Airborne spread has not been reported for COVID-19 and it is not believed to be a major driver of transmission based on available evidence,” researchers from China and the World Health Organization wrote in a report published in February.

But with each new study that contradicts the WHO report, that consensus as to the virus’ ability to spread through air is starting to fracture. Even the CDC issued a report earlier this month finding that the coronavirus can travel 13 feet through the air. 

RELATED: New Study: COVID-19 Can Spread in the Air 13 Feet

Until more conclusive evidence is found, concerned individuals should adhere to all CDC and local public health guidelines on wearing face masks and coverings, follow social distancing recommendations, frequently wash their hands, and regularly clean and sanitize surfaces.

Am I Immune To COVID-19 If I Get It And Recover From it?

This, unfortunately, is another question without a definitive answer, but one that has sparked alarm among Americans in recent weeks.

This concern grew out of reports from South Korea that 292 people who recovered from the disease and were discharged from hospitals have since retested positive. Data out of Wuhan, China, where the virus originated, also showed that about 5 to 10% of patients who “recovered” later tested positive again.

The World Health Organization itself released a statement that the possibility of reinfection is a real one, and that survivors may not be immune to a second infection. “There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection,” WHO wrote in an April 24 scientific brief.

The brief, however, doesn’t prove that people can get reinfected. It’s simply an absence of conclusive evidence, as statistician Nate Silver pointed out. In fact, while scientists remain uncertain about the possibility of reinfection, early evidence suggests at least temporary protection against reinfection, though it’s unclear for how long.

Meanwhile, South Korean infectious disease experts have downplayed the possibility of reinfection, suggesting instead that the positive tests in their country were likely false positives, caused by dead virus particles that lingered in the body. 

So should you be afraid of getting the virus a second time? The short answer is no. Until there is conclusive evidence, most experts agree the possibility of reinfection remains unlikely.

Will Warm Weather Kill the Coronavirus?

President Trump repeatedly speculated in February that the virus would go away when the weather got warmer. “Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away,” he said on Feb. 10.

It is now May 1, and the virus, of course, has not gone away. More than 1 million Americans are confirmed to have contracted COVID-19, and at least 61,000 have died, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.

While Trump’s evidence-free bluster was unfounded, the question over whether warm weather will affect the spread of the coronavirus is itself a valid one. Flu outbreaks, after all, are far more common in the winter than in the summer. 

Countless articles have been written about the idea that warm weather might slow down the coronavirus and a consensus has started to form: While the virus has spread more slowly in hot and humid climates and seems to die more quickly in sunnier, hotter, and more humid lab conditions, the virus is too infectious to disappear from heat alone. So while summer weather may help the U.S. slow the spread of the coronavirus, it’s not going to be the main factor in beating it back.

Instead, combatting the virus will largely come down to safety measures taken by governments and populations. 

“Weather and climate can only explain part of the transmission, the other factors are non environmental—social distancing, washing hands, covering your cough, staying home when you are sick—and these factors are probably the most important in a pandemic,” Jesse Bell, a climate health expert at the University of Nebraska, told BuzzFeed. “Understanding climate and weather will only tell you when the environmental conditions are optimal for the spread of the virus.”

Can My Pet Get Coronavirus?

The coronavirus has forced hundreds of millions of Americans indoors, isolating them from friends and family. Many—including yours truly—have responded by adopting furry friends. In fact, adoption of dogs and cats are way up. As Vox reported, the ASPCA has seen a 500% increase in applications through its New York and Los Angeles foster programs since March 15, while Petfinder.com said its adoption inquiries surged by 116% in the second half of March. In Wisconsin, so many people applied to foster animals through the Wisconsin Humane Society that its website crashed.

At the same time, misinformation has exploded about whether pets can contract and transmit COVID-19, leading some animal owners across the world to abandon their pets

So what’s the deal? Can animals become infected with COVID-19?

The answer appears to be yes, but only in rare cases. There have been a small number of pets, including cats and dogs, who have become infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, mostly after close contact with people with the disease. Only two of the pets confirmed to have COVID-19 reside in the U.S., and both are in cats in New York state.

While it appears that the virus can spread from people to animals in some situations, the CDC notes that there is “no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes COVID-19,” and that “based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.” 

The CDC also says there is no evidence that the coronavirus can spread to humans from the skin, fur, or hair of pets. While the likelihood of your pet becoming sick is extremely unlikely, the CDC has issued guidance for how to try and prevent such a situation from occurring. 

“Do not let pets interact with people or animals outside the household. If a person inside the household becomes sick, isolate that person from everyone else, including pets,” the agency says.

The CDC urges dog owners to continue walking their dogs, but avoid gathering in groups and staying out of dog parks or public areas where large groups of people and dogs gather. If your pet has been in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 and is sick, the CDC advises that you call your veterinarian and let them know the pet was around a person with COVID-19. Do not go visit a veterinary clinic yourself. Instead, some veterinarians will offer telemedicine consultations or propose other plans for seeing sick pets. 

“Your veterinarian can evaluate your pet and determine the next steps for your pet’s treatment and care,” the agency says.