On Tuesday, officials from the National Institute of Health (NIH) announced the initiation of a clinical trial in which patients in U.S. hospitals with confirmed COVID-19 infections will be given Gilead Sciences' (NASDAQ:GILD) drug remdesivir. 

What we know 

The first clinical trial participant was an American currently at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, who had been quarantined with other infected passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

Scientist examining a flask of blue stuff.

Image source: Getty Images.

While we can be fairly certain the first trial participant won't be in a hurry to take another cruise, that's really all we know about this person at the moment. The NIH and Gilead Sciences will most likely randomize patients into groups receiving remdesivir or a placebo, so don't discount remdesivir's potential as a COVID-19 treatment if you don't see news of about the rapid recovery from that first enrolled U.S. patient in the next couple of days.

Health officials at the China-Japan Friendship Hospital and other centers in Hubei province have already started a clinical trial testing remdesivir in patients infected with SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Anecdotal reports about those who have been treated with remdesivir for the illness have been positive. But it will be impossible to properly gauge the value of the treatment until we can actually compare outcomes between significant numbers of patients who actually received the experimental antiviral drug and those who just think they did.

No longer a theoretical problem

Also on Tuesday, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Centers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, asked the American public to prepare for significant disruption to their daily lives.

So far, 80,238 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and 53 of those cases have been confirmed in the U.S. With numbers like these, further spread across the country is to be expected.