Atlanta, GA,
12:28 PM

From Shepherd Center's Chief Medical Officer

By Michael Yochelson, M.D., MBA, Chief Medical Officer of Shepherd Center

As the COVID-19 (coronavirus) public health issue evolves, Shepherd Center is going to err on the side of communicating updated information to you quickly, so please anticipate updates and/or changes regularly. We will issue updates via social media (see, our website at and our other communication channels as more information becomes available.

As part of our commitment to enhancing the safety of our patients, families and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have made several indefinite operational and policy changes, including restricting access to the hospital and our off-campus facilities.

We recognize that these restrictions take away from the usual Shepherd Center experience. We don’t make these decisions lightly, but we do make them for everyone's safety, particularly for our patients, who are at higher risk for severe complications from COVID-19. We greatly appreciate your cooperation and understanding. For complete updates, be a regular visitor to

  • If you have a fever, cough or shortness of breath, please do not come to Shepherd Center for the safety of our patients, families and staff.
  • Starting Monday, March 16, the only entrances to Shepherd Center’s main campus buildings that will be open are from the parking decks and the Marcus-Woodruff Building front entrance next to our coffee kiosk.
  • ProMotion Gym, including the pool, and Beyond Therapy are closed to everyone except inpatient units indefinitely starting Monday, March 16.
  • The cafeteria will be open, but seating will be limited. Takeout meals from our cafeteria will be encouraged.
  • Effective Monday, March 16, we are restricting visitors in our main campus inpatient units and day program gym to two designated, pre-approved visitors per patient.
  • Patients with appointments in our outpatient clinics and programs will be contacted 24 to 48 hours in advance of their appointment to be pre-screened for COVID-19 before their appointment. They will receive additional information at that time.
  • If at all possible, we ask that caregivers of outpatients remain in their cars in the parking deck or lot – or drop off their patient and return for pickup – during the outpatient's visit. Caregivers who need to enter will be screened at the entryway checkpoints before entering.
  • Only pre-approved, essential vendors and visitors meeting with a staff member will be allowed to enter. You will be required to show proof of pre-approval and a picture ID. Without proof of pre-approval, you will have to call the staff member to come escort you into the building.
  • Anyone who has been a cruise ship passenger in the past 30 days is not permitted to enter any of our facilities.
  • People picking up prescriptions at Shepherd Apothecary will be screened at the checkpoints before entering.


We encourage everyone to take preventive steps to stop the spread of COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid exposure to this virus. However, the CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help mitigate the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Stay home during this time if you can, but especially if you are sick, for your health and the safety of others.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, and then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow the CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
  • The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
    • Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of facemasks is also crucial for healthcare workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a healthcare facility).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.

We know this is a time that may cause psychological distress. If you are a current inpatient, please talk to your Shepherd Center psychologist. If you are an outpatient, contact your Shepherd Center provider directly or send us a message via or leave a message at 404-350-7662. We will respond as quickly as possible. Should you need to talk to a crisis counselor immediately, you may call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

These are trying circumstances for patients, families and staff. As always, we are trying to make the healthiest, safest decisions for our community.

MICHAEL YOCHELSON, M.D., MBA, is the chief medical officer at Shepherd Center. He is a board-certified neurologist and physiatrist who has also served in an academic capacity as a professor and vice chair of clinical affairs in the department of rehabilitation medicine and professor of clinical neurology at Georgetown University.


About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.