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COVID-19 FAQs

Patient and donor safety is our top priority. Here are frequently asked questions and answers related to coronavirus and health and safety for our community.

As always, check in with your doctor if you experience symptoms or have questions about the additional precautions you should take.

Page last updated on April 6, 2020
For patients and their families, this PDF of specific FAQs is available
For patients who are pre-transplant, we're hosting a webinar to answer questions about protecting your health, donor safety and how to cope with the stress. Click here to learn more and register.

For Patients

During these times of uncertainty, the Patient Support Center is here for you and your loved ones. Here are some frequently asked questions:

Q: Will I still be able to get a transplant?
A: Your doctor will make sure you are getting the treatment you need. Talk with your doctor about your specific treatment plan. Our volunteer couriers have air travel waivers from the U.S. and international governments so they can still deliver donated blood or bone marrow to you.

Q: How are you protecting my donor’s health (and my new cells)?
A: Our teams are in frequent contact with donors to provide support and answer their questions during these challenging times. We follow the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for social distancing, travel and preparation to make sure you get the treatment you need. As always, we are also making sure that they are fully informed and consented and update them when we get more information.

We ask donors about their risk of exposure. We give that information to your doctor so they can choose the best donor for you. These guidelines are reviewed and updated daily. If your donor has been exposed or diagnosed with COVID-19 (the disease caused by the new coronavirus), your doctor will decide the best treatment option for you. Your doctor may find another donor or re-schedule your transplant.

Q: Do I need to take extra precautions to protect myself from infection?
A: Just like you normally would, there are 5 key things you can do:

  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Avoid spending time with people who have a cough, fever, or other cold or flu symptoms.
  3. Take your medicines as prescribed.
  4. Follow instructions from your doctor about other precautions, like wearing a mask, limiting appointments, and avoiding gatherings.
  5. Call your doctor if you have fever, cough, or other cold or flu symptoms. Call your doctor before visiting the clinic to prevent the spread of disease.

Q: Should I get tested for coronavirus?
A: You do not need to get tested for coronavirus if you do not have any symptoms. Visit the CDC website for a full list of symptoms and a coronavirus self-checker.

Q: Will my medicines change?
A: Continue taking your current medicines as prescribed. Your doctor will talk with you if there are any changes. Call your doctor if you are not able to keep taking your medicine. Do not take supplements or vitamins without talking to your doctor first.

Q: What if my caregiver is exposed to or diagnosed with COVID-19?
A: Your caregiver will not be able to care for you. Follow instructions from your doctor. Your caregiver will need to find a replacement during this time.

Q: How can I cope with stress?
A: Here are 4 things you can do:

  1. Get at least 7 hours of sleep every night.
  2. Do something relaxing that you enjoy (reading, listening to music, cooking, etc.).
  3. Get your information from trusted sources (your doctor or the CDC) rather than social media.
  4. Contact us for emotional support.

Q: Where can I go for more information?
A: You can:

  • Call or text us at 1 (888) 999-6743 or (763) 406-3410. We’re available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Central time.
  • Email us at: patientinfo@nmdp.org.
  • Visit: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about

For Donors

Q: What steps are we taking to protect our donors?
A: Our donors always have a physical exam to make sure they are healthy enough to donate. Proper measures are being taken to screen each case for any potential increased risk. In the meantime, we encourage all individuals to practice social distancing to protect yourself and your loved ones. Additionally, please follow the correct procedures and protect yourself from infection, you can find more information here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

Q: How are potential donors being screened for COVID-19?
A:A: We are gathering additional health and travel information from donors at each stage of the donation process. Transplant centers are informed of any identified COVID-19 risks to allow them to make a risk/benefit decision on whether to proceed with that donor.

Q: I am concerned about traveling for donation. What can I do to protect myself?
A: We understand donors may be concerned about air travel and exposing yourself to potential risks. If traveling for donation will affect your ability to return to work or other duties, we will ask you to let us know right away. We will look for alternative options for your donation.

Be The Match is monitoring travel recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and travel guidelines accordingly.

You can find additional information about risk locations on the CDC website: Coronavirus Disease 2019 Information for Travel

The CDC website provides additional information on everyday preventive actions you can take to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases: Steps to Prevent Illness

Q: Are there alternatives to donors traveling for donation?
A: Possibly. If you feel uncomfortable traveling, we respect your decision. However, it is extremely important that you tell us right way so we can look for alternatives. Donation is time-sensitive, and any delay can have a negative impact on the recipient’s wellbeing. It may be possible to arrange for donation to occur somewhere within driving distance.

Q: Will we be suspending donor travel in the future?
A: Our logistics team is carefully monitoring the situation and has contingency plans in place in case of travel restrictions. Our public response team is also available for any questions and can be reached at 1 (800) 627-7692.

Q: Does bone marrow or stem cell donation compromise my immune system? Will I be at increased risk of contracting an infection or having trouble fighting an infection after donation?
A: No – we do not have any evidence to show that bone marrow or stem cell donation negatively affects a donor’s immune function or makes them more prone to illness after donation. Volunteer donors tend to be at lower risk of infection than the general population due to being young and healthy. A donor’s risk contracting COVID-19 or other infections is no greater than other adults in their age range. As always, we strongly encourage good hygiene practices to keep you safe and free of infection.

Q: What types of financial support can you offer a donor if they decide to donate?
A: All medical costs for the donation procedure are covered by Be The Match, as are travel expenses and other non-medical costs, including child and pet care. The only cost to a donor may be time taken off from work.

Some states have laws that require employers to provide paid time off for donation and the donor center coordinator can help explain the program to the donor. Donors should talk with their employer and look at the statutes for their state. If the donor’s state does not have a law about donor leave and/or their employer is unable or unwilling to provide paid time off for donation, they may be able to be reimbursed for all or some of their lost wages through Be The Match’s donor financial assistance fund.

Q: I am donating soon and don’t feel safe...what do I do?
A: We are evaluating all aspects of COVID-19 and its impacts on broader communities. Our Executive Team will work with our Board of Directors and Network partners to implement plans focused solely on patient and donor safety. Your coordinating center facilitating your donation will communicate with you directly on next steps to practice donor safety at this time.

General FAQ

Q: Are we still accepting mailed swab kits? What measures are we taking to ensure the safety of our employees in the BioRepository?
A: Our BioRepository is still sending out and processing swab kits. We are continuously working to ensure our life-saving mission is possible and taking proper protocol for processing kits. We are confident in the safety protocols in place to keep of BioRepository employees safe as they type kits received.

Q: Will events such as live-drives and other in-person efforts be cancelled?
A: Effective March 16, 2020, all U.S. Be The Match live drives are temporarily suspended. We are evaluating all aspects of COVID-19's impacts on broader communities and we will provide updates as to future events as we have them. In the meantime, individuals are still encouraged to register online at BeTheMatch.org.

Q: What drove the decision to close the Minneapolis coordinating center?
A: As a precautionary measure to ensure the safety and well-being of our employees, we’ve mandated a work-from-home policy for our Minneapolis Coordinating Center. This approach is focused on the hundreds of employees who arrive at the Coordinating Center every day to provide life-saving solutions to patients in need.

Q: What are our contingency plans for facilitating transplants/collections?
A: Our logistics team is carefully monitoring the situation, and proactively changing itineraries when needed to mitigate potential risks. They are skilled at updating travel plans as needed. Our public response team is also available for any questions and can be reached at 1 (800) 627-7692.

Q: How does this Europe to U.S. travel restriction impact bone marrow donations?
A: Our Executive Team will work with our Board of Directors and Network partners to implement plans focused solely on patient and donor safety. In addition, we are actively working with Federal and Local Government partners for information, guidance and potential alternative transportation solutions, as we continue to explore all internal operational alternatives.

Q: Are international donations still being facilitated?
A: Yes. We ask donors questions about their risk of exposure. We give that information to doctors so they can choose the best donor for their patients. These guidelines are constantly being reviewed and updated on a daily basis.

Q: My loved one is on immunosuppressive meds, what can we do to stay safe?
A: Please contact your Transplant Center for guidance on your individual case. We encourage all individuals to practice social distancing to protect yourself and your loved ones. Additionally, please follow the correct procedures and protect yourself from infection, you can find more information here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

For all media inquiries, contact Kate McDermott at kmcdermo@nmdp.org or 612-280-2616