Credit: ABC

The long-running medical sudser is going ripped-from-the-headlines.

Over the years, Grey’s Anatomy has kept things topical, addressing challenging social and political topics amid the heartwrenching storylines. And in its upcoming Season 17, Dr. Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) and her colleagues are going to continue keeping things real, with a story focusing on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re going to address this pandemic for sure,” said showrunner Krista Vernoff during a Television Academy panel, which is set to stream on Tuesday night. “There’s no way to be a long-running medical show and not do the medical story of our lifetimes.”

The show’s writers are currently working on the new season’s stories – though because of the real-life pandemic production has not begun on the show, and it doesn’t have a Season 17 premiere date. But according to Vernoff, they’ve consulted directly with medical professionals who’re working directly with COVID-19 patients.

“The doctors come in, and we’re the first people they’re talking to about these types of experiences they’re having,” Vernoff explained. “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. And that’s been one of our big conversations about [Kevin McKidd’s] Owen [who served in the Army in Iraq], that he’s actually trained for this in a way that most of the other doctors aren’t.”

Over its 16-and-counting seasons, Grey’s Anatomy has addressed topics including feminism, same-sex marriage and mass shootings. Who could forget Callie and Arizona’s wedding? Or Miranda, who took down hospital shooter Gary? And, of course, title character Meredith has been showing us for going on two decades that she can be just as happy and powerful with or without her McDreamy.

Vernoff clearly intends to stay in that lane. “I feel like our show has an opportunity and a responsibility to tell some of those stories,” she said. “Our conversations have been constantly about how we keep alive humor and romance while we tell these really painful stories.”

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