As we already reported, Season 17 of Grey's Anatomy will be a little different than planned, in light of the pandemic.
Now, the show is delving into the ways that COVID-19 is shaping not only the production, but the story itself.
Grey's Anatomy is absolutely going to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
Showrunner Krista Vernoff spoke to Entertainment Weekly about the ways in which the real world crisis will shape Season 17 of the ongoing series.
"There's no way to be a long-running medical show and not do the medical story of our lifetimes," she acknowledges.
"Every year, we have doctors come and tell us their stories," Vernoff remarks.
"And," she observes, "usually they're telling their funniest or craziest stories."
Vernoff expresses: "This year, it has felt more like therapy."
"The doctors come in," Vernoff describes, "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," she details.
"They're pale," Vernoff notes, "and they're talking about it as war -- a war that they were not trained for."
"And that's been one of our big conversations about Owen," Vernoff notes, referring to the fictional doctor, Owen Hunt.
She continues: "is that he's actually trained for this in a way that most of the other doctors aren't."
That has a lot of potential for his eventual interactions with other doctors.
Vernoff correctly notes that Grey's Anatomy, given the subject matter of the show, has a clear obligation to address the pandemic.
"I feel like our show has an opportunity and a responsibility to tell some of those stories," she states
Vernoff adds: "Our conversations have been constantly about how do we keep alive humor and romance while we tell these really painful stories."
Season 16 was not able to conclude filming of the season.
Because the COVID-19 pandemic shut down production, the season's final four episodes could not film.
It's a real shame, too, because they missed some crossover potential.
Station 19, on which Vernoff is also a showrunner, was able to conclude filming the season before the pandemic ended.
The two shows were intended to have intersecting storylines in a crossover, given that they share a fictional universe.
Sadly, plans for this had to be postponed in light of the pandemic's realities. Safety of actors and crew must come first.
Obviously, covering the COVID-19 pandemic is a complicated matter. This isn't a fictional situation.
Unlike the infamous "Code Black" episode from very early in the series, this is something that impacts many people.
Many of us already know someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. By the time that Season 17 airs, things will have gotten much worse.
That said, if any show can handle this pandemic well, we hope that it will be Grey's Anatomy, and not just because it's a hospital show.
Thinking back to George O'Malley's little monologue to a proud nazi after Dr. Bailey saved his life, we think that such a story could be in very capable hands.
But what form might the stories take?
Our guess? At least one "ripped from the headlines" episode based upon the diehard COVID-denier who died regretting his previous doubts.
That, we imagine, would come later, assuming that the season appropriately allows an extended arc for the pandemic.
As we have all experienced for ourselves, COVID-19 has not limited itself to a single "episode," particularly within the United States.