Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update from Shepherd Center

Important Notice

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 (facebook.com/shepherdcenter), on this web page (shepherd.org/COVID19) and our other communication channels as more information becomes available.

If you have general inquiries related to Shepherd Center’s actions related to coronavirus, you may send an email to COVID19@shepherd.org or leave a message at 404-350-7662. We will respond as quickly as possible.

Shepherd Center Updates

September 28, 2020

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, SHARE Military Initiative at Shepherd Center in Atlanta now has in-person and virtual program options. Learn more here.

June 30, 2020

In February – recognizing that its patients with spinal cord injury, brain injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions are at higher risk for complications related to COVID-19 – Shepherd Center began implementing numerous measures to greatly reduce exposure to the virus. The safety measures we have in place are evaluated daily and evolve as conditions change. They include:

  • allowing only one visitor (who must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test) per inpatient to stay in their loved one’s room for the duration of the patient’s stay;
  • regular screening, including temperature checks, of all authorized visitors and staff entering the building;
  • requiring all staff and approved visitors in the hospital to wear a mask at all times unless they are working alone in a private space;
  • requiring all patients to wear a mask when outside their treatment unit (unless medical personnel determine they cannot do so for medical reasons);
  • social distancing of at least six feet except in treatment settings that require closer contact;
  • limits on the volume of patients seen in outpatient and day programs;
  • providing telehealth for outpatient medical provider and rehabilitation visits;
  • remote working for many non-clinical staff members;
  • thoroughly and frequently disinfecting all spaces.

As this pandemic evolves, Shepherd Center is committed to working in collaboration with state and local public health agencies to help enhance the safety of our patients, their family members and caregivers, our staff and the community. In addition, we are regularly communicating updates and educational information to these groups to keep them informed and enabled to take steps to protect their health.

June 29, 2020

The safety of our patients and staff is always our top priority. Still, we realize the importance of family involvement during rehabilitation. Recently, we began a gradual, multi-phased process that allows each inpatient to have one family member/caregiver stay in their loved one’s hospital room.

To lower the risk of viral transmission, we have implemented these requirements for family members/caregivers staying in their loved one’s room. The person must:

  • show proof of a negative COVID-19 test performed no more than 14 days before the date they enter the hospital;
  • remain in the hospital for the duration of the inpatient’s stay;
  • wear a hospital-issued face mask when outside of their loved one’s room and in the room when less than 6 feet from a staff member;
  • wear a hospital-issued wristband for identification (issued upon admission);
  • be screened each weekday by their case manager for COVID-19 symptoms, including a temperature check.

Shepherd Center will also allow a second family member/caregiver to enter the hospital for scheduled family training sessions that cannot be handled via virtual training. These family members/caregivers will need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test done no more than 14 days before entering the hospital. Also, they will be screened for symptoms each time they enter the hospital and must wear a mask while inside the hospital. No additional visitors are allowed at this time.

It is imperative for the safety of everyone that ALL patients and their families/caregivers comply with these rules. Non-compliance puts the family member/caregiver at risk of losing visitation privileges and puts the patient at risk for early discharge from our rehabilitation programs. 

As you can imagine, it is a complex process to determine the best time to allow visitors back into Shepherd Center, and we are still working through our process to fully reopen visitation. For news and updates, visit this web page and also follow Shepherd Center on social media. 

May 2020 Updates

Shepherd Center has decided to begin a phased-in process to reopen some of our outpatient and day programs beginning June 1. There will be safety protocols in place, and we appreciate your compliance with them.

  • Patients will be screened for illness at our entryway checkpoints.
  • All patients are required to wear a mask for their safety and the safety of others.
  • Patients must remain in their treatment area.

With the increase of patients in our facilities, here are some additional ways we are working to protect our patients, families and staff:

  • All inpatients must wear a mask when they leave their treatment unit – unless their care team deems it medically inappropriate.
  • Also, as has already been the policy, all family members approved to stay in patient rooms must wear a mask when they leave their loved one's room.
  • Family members are not allowed to go to other units or patient rooms.

Also, we remind you of some other pandemic-related policies that have been and will remain in place:

  • The Shepherd Center Cafeteria is operating on the following basis:
    • It will be open for to-go meals only for inpatients and the family member/caregiver approved to stay in their loved one’s room.
    • Only Shepherd Center staff members and some SCI Day Program patients will be allowed in the cafeteria’s dining room area.

  • The Secret Garden adjacent to the Shepherd Building will be open daily for inpatients and their approved family members from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
    • Maintain a 6-foot distance from each other in the Garden and wear a mask unless eating.
    • The Secret Garden is the only area where inpatients’ approved family members/caregivers may go to smoke.

  • Inpatients/family members are only allowed to go on organized family training outings, accompanied by staff members, in preparation for discharge.

  • Inpatients and family members approved to stay in their loved one’s room are NOT allowed to leave the hospital building or visit anyone in the Woodruff Family Residence Center for any reason.

  • No flowers or plants are allowed in Shepherd Center.

  • Inpatients may receive single-meal deliveries from restaurants or family members if the meal is packaged in a container that can be disinfected (e.g., Ziploc bag or disposable plastic storage container). Deliveries must be made at the entryway checkpoints between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. and/or 4 and 6 p.m.

  • Inpatients may receive deliveries of non-food items and non-perishable food if they are packaged in a container no larger than a one-gallon plastic zip bag. Items must be dropped off at the entryway checkpoints.

  • ProMotion Fitness Center and the Shepherd Center pool are only open to inpatients, day program patients and Shepherd Center employees.

  • Inpatient family members/caregivers (i.e., those other than the one approved to stay in their loved one’s room) staying in Shepherd Center housing should know:
    • They may continue to stay in Shepherd Center housing for up to 30 days. We will extend beyond the 30 days, if our capacity allows.
    • Housing residents cannot have additional family members, friends or visitors in their apartments or common areas of Shepherd Center housing.
    • Limit group social activities to no more than 4 people. Also, stay 6 feet from each other if at all possible.
    • Families ordering food deliveries to on-campus housing must meet the driver outside to pick up their orders.
    • Clean your apartment regularly with disinfectant, focusing on doorknobs, faucets and other surfaces.
    • Shepherd Center provides a computer and fax machine in the Plaza Level of the Woodruff Family Residence Center. Families are asked to disinfect the devices with Shepherd-provided wipes after each use.

It is imperative for the safety of everyone that ALL patients and their families/caregivers comply with these rules. Non-compliance puts the family member/caregiver at risk of losing visitation privileges and puts the patient at risk for early discharge from our rehabilitation programs.

For news and updates, visit this web page and also follow Shepherd Center on social media.


April 2020 Updates

Please note that Shepherd Center patients cannot receive deliveries of fresh flowers or plants at this time due to the hospital's pandemic-related policies.

In the wake of news that Georgia Governor Brian Kemp plans to reopen a variety of the state’s businesses beginning Friday, April 24, and additional businesses on Monday, April 27, Shepherd Center leaders have announced that they will not be making any changes to the hospital's pandemic-related policies and practices at this time.

As always, Shepherd Center's top priority is the safety of our patients, their families/caregivers and our staff. Leaders based their decision to maintain current visitor restrictions (see April 3 update below) and other pandemic-related policies on various data – including predictive models and published reports showing a continued increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths in Georgia.

"We know it is very difficult for patients and their families to be apart, but we firmly believe this is the safest decision, especially given that Georgia’s shelter-in-place order continues through April 30 and the governor’s public health emergency declaration continues through May 13," said Shepherd Center CEO and President Sarah Morrison, PT, MBA, MHA. "We will continue to regularly evaluate the situation and make decisions based on the data that is available."

Shepherd Center is now requiring the wearing of masks in the hospital by all outpatients and visitors who are allowed in the facility under new restrictions that became effective April 6. Outpatients and visitors are encouraged to use their own masks or homemade face coverings. Shepherd Center is implementing this change based on guidance from local and national public health officials.

Throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Shepherd Center has been evaluating and implementing measures daily to enhance the safety of patients, their family members and our staff. This is our top priority.

Because of the expected significant increase in COVID-19 cases in Georgia and nationwide in the next several weeks, we have had to temporarily stop all patient visitation and visitor access to the hospital effective Monday, April 6. We are making an exception to allow visits by one parent (or other designated family member) of patients who are 18 and under. That one visitor cannot change during the patient’s stay, and this person must stay in the hospital at all times.

Also, we will allow up to two designated family members/caregivers into the hospital to participate in family training with their inpatient as determined and scheduled by their treatment team. Additionally, up to two family members/caregivers can assist the patient when discharging. Shepherd Center providers will also provide supplemental training via telehealth and online learning, as needed, during the patient’s stay and after discharge.

For newly admitted patients, one designated family member/caregiver can visit for up to two days (day of admission and the next weekday) to meet the treatment team, help get the patient situated in the room and become familiar with Shepherd Center’s program. 

In these few cases where family members are allowed into the hospital, they will be screened for COVID-19 and must show a photo ID at our entryway checkpoints prior to entering.

We know this change will be difficult, but we must protect the safety of our patients and staff. Shepherd Center will do all it can to facilitate virtual visits and regular treatment team communications through the use of HIPAA-compliant smartphone and tablet computer apps, such as FaceTime. If you need assistance, please speak to your case manager so we can address questions and needs.

Also, if you have any questions about our visitation policy, you may speak to your case manager, or contact Sarah Morrison, CEO and president, at sarah.morrison@shepherd.org.

Shepherd Center’s action plan related to COVID-19 is changing frequently as we learn more about the virus and the conditions in Georgia and the U.S. We will continue to communicate these updates on this web page and will re-evaluate our visitation and visitor access policies as conditions change.

Get more details about the visitation policy and related changes by downloading our Frequently Asked Questions.


March 2020 Updates

March 23, 2020

To help enhance the safety of our patients, their caregivers and our staff during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic:

All outpatients with appointments between now and the end of April will receive a call with further instructions regarding upcoming appointments. Some appointments will be handled via phone. Please see below for visitor restrictions. Specifically, Shepherd Center is doing the following:

  • To further enhance safety during the pandemic, Shepherd Center’s day rehabilitation programs for patients with spinal cord injury and brain injury were closed indefinitely beginning March 27.
  • Shepherd Apothecary customers should call 404-350-7743 to pay for their prescription medications by credit card. They can let the Apothecary staff know when they will be able to drive up to the front circle by the Terry Lee statue. Then, an Apothecary staff member will deliver the prescription to the customer’s car. Another option is to have the Apothecary ship medications via UPS. Normal delivery is two to three days, but shipments could be delayed.
  • All outpatient, single service clinic and rehabilitation appointments, including those at Shepherd Pathways, are canceled and will be rescheduled in the future.
  • All outpatient procedures are being canceled – except MS infusions, intrathecal pump refills/analysis/reprogramming and a few other urgent procedures. We will contact you at a later date to reschedule your appointment.
  • The Complex Concussion Clinic at 80 Peachtree Park Drive is handling established patient's physician appointments by phone. They are not accepting any new patients at this time.
  • The SHARE Military Initiative will not be admitting any new clients at this time, and has suspended in-person treatment for existing clients. Staff are providing transition support and peer support by phone.
  • Seating Clinic and Driving Program clients will be contacted by phone regarding their appointments.
  • Research patient visits will be canceled for elective or volunteer participants. Patients who are participating in a clinical trial that requires a research visit that is already scheduled will proceed after the patient is screened.
  • Shepherd Center is not scheduling new outpatients at this time. We will keep a list of inquiries, or you can follow up in the future.
  • We will not be scheduling any future appointments in Outpatient Services until further notice.

March 18, 2020

As part of our commitment to enhancing the safety of our patients, families and staff during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) 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. 

  • 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.
  • Effective March 16, the only entrances to Shepherd Center’s main campus buildings that are open are from the parking decks and the Marcus-Woodruff Building front entrance next to our coffee kiosk. All visitors who must be on the approved visitor list will be screened at these entrances and must show a photo ID.
  • ProMotion Gym, including the pool, and Beyond Therapy were closed to everyone except inpatient units indefinitely beginning Monday, March 16.
  • 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 checkpoints before entering the hospital.
  • Only pre-approved, essential vendors are allowed to enter. You will be required to show proof of pre-approval and a photo 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.

March 20, 2020

For MS Institute Patients and Caregivers:

As part of Shepherd Center’s commitment to enhancing the safety of our patients, families and staff during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we have made several indefinite operational and policy changes, including restricting access to the hospital.

We recognize 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 complications from COVID-19. We greatly appreciate your cooperation and understanding. Here is what you need to know:

  • The only entrances to Shepherd Center that will be open are at the Shepherd Parking Deck bridge on the first floor and the Marcus-Woodruff Building front entrance next to our coffee kiosk.
  • All MS patients who must come to Shepherd Center for infusions and/or MRIs will be pre-screened for COVID-19 and flu by phone and re-screened at these entrances upon arrival.
  • Unless it is medically necessary, caregivers of outpatients must remain in their cars in the parking deck – or drop off their patient and return for pickup – during the outpatient's visit. Caregivers who need to enter will be screened at the checkpoints before entering.
  • Caregivers of patients who are at Shepherd Center for a long infusion (Ocrevus or Rituxan) and need a place to wait will first need to be pre-screened at the bridge entrance from the Shepherd Parking Deck. If they pass the screening, they may wait in the lounge area on the Plaza Level of the Woodruff Family Residence Center, which is accessible via the elevators adjacent to the Woodruff Parking Deck. There are restrooms, water fountains and guest WiFi services available on this level. Please follow CDC guidelines for social distancing (6 feet apart) and handwashing.
  • Caregivers who fail the screening will not be permitted in any Shepherd Center buildings and will have to wait in their cars while their patient receives their infusion.
  • Caregivers will not be allowed to go to the Shepherd Center cafeteria, so they are advised to bring snacks and water with them. Also, the Fresh Market grocery store near Shepherd Center is open, and some restaurants are providing takeout and delivery service.
  • Appointments for established MS patients who do not need an infusion or MRI at Shepherd Center will be handled via phone. A staff member will reach out to you to schedule these calls, so please answer calls from Shepherd Center.
  • Shepherd Apothecary customers needing prescriptions filled may call 404-350-7743 to pay for their medications by credit card. They can let the Apothecary staff know when they will be able to drive up to the front circle by the Terry Lee statue. Then, an Apothecary staff member will deliver the prescription to the customer’s car. Another option to have the Apothecary ship medications via UPS. Normal delivery is two to three days, but shipments could be delayed.

Please know we are working diligently to protect the health and safety of our staff, patients and family members, and to ensure that we remain adequately supplied to meet patient needs.

Return to this web page for ongoing updates and follow Shepherd Center on social media.

If you have specific questions related to your ongoing care, you may contact our Call Center between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays at 404-603-5031.


We know this is a time that may cause psychological distress. If you are a current Shepherd Center inpatient, please talk to your Shepherd Center psychologist. If you are a current Shepherd Center outpatient, contact your Shepherd Center provider directly. Should you need to talk to a crisis counselor immediately, you may call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

If you have general inquiries related to Shepherd Center’s actions related to coronavirus, you may send an email to COVID19@shepherd.org or leave a message at 404-350-7662. We will respond as quickly as possible.

Established outpatients with questions about coronavirus or other medical-related topics may contact the Shepherd Center Call Center from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. Call 404-603-5031.

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

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.
  • 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.