Grey's Anatomy Season 17 Will Tackle the COVID-19 Pandemic: 'Our Show Has a Responsibility'

"There's no way to be a long-running medical show and not do the medical story of our lifetimes," executive producer Krista Vernoff says

Photo: Michael Desmond/Walt Disney Television via Getty

The doctors at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital are suiting up to take on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In a new interview airing Tuesday with the Television Academy, Grey's Anatomy executive producer Krista Vernoff reveals that the medical drama is going to tackle the global coronavirus crisis in season 17.

"We're going to address this pandemic for sure," she says of the upcoming season. "There’s no way to be a long-running medical show and not do the medical story of our lifetimes."

During the "Quaranstreaming: Comfort TV That Keeps Us Going" panel, which Vernoff attended along with Grey's stars Chandra Wilson (Dr. Miranda Bailey) and Kevin McKidd (Dr. Owen Hunt), she explains that the show's writers have already been in meetings with real-life doctors about the pandemic.

"Every year, we have doctors come and tell us their stories, and usually they’re telling their funniest or craziest stories," Vernoff explains of the show's writing process.

This year, however, listening to the doctor's stories was different.

"It has felt more like therapy," she says in the panel interview. "The doctors come in and we’re the first people they’re talking to about these types of experiences they’re having. They are literally shaking and trying not to cry, they’re pale, and they’re talking about it as war — a war that they were not trained for."

Grey’s Anatomy. ABC

"That’s been one of our big conversations about Owen [Hunt], is that he’s actually trained for this in a way that most of the other doctors aren’t," she teases of the storyline.

Vernoff goes on to say that while it's been "really painful" to hear such tragic stories, it is important that they are shared.

"I feel like our show has an opportunity and a responsibility to tell some of those stories," she says. "Our conversations have been constantly about how do we keep alive humor and romance while we tell these really painful stories."

And while Grey's producers and writers are working hard on creating the next season, fans will have to wait a little bit longer to see these storylines come to life as shooting for season 17 of the show remains postponed due to the pandemic.

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