'Grey's Anatomy': Will Show Feature Coronavirus in Season 17?

With Season 16 having come to an early end, many fans are wondering if Grey's Anatomy Season 17 will incorporate the current global coronavirus pandemic. The ABC medical drama has drawn real-life inspiration in the past – see episodes Season 3, Episode 3, "Sometimes a Fantasy" and Season 7, Episode 3, "Superfreak," among many others – leaving many to wonder if Season 17 could at all be influenced by the current medical crisis affecting the world. Speaking to Variety following the Season 16 finale, showrunner Krista Vernoff explained that such a scenario doesn’t seem likely at the moment.

"We have not had those conversations. It is a thing that I’ve been thinking about a little bit," Vernoff admitted. "If our world is really changed for the next year, which it feels like it might be, it feels like handshaking and hugging might be a thing that we don’t resume right away. I think it’s going to feel weird if the Grey’s Anatomy world is not reflecting that. But on the flip side, people need an escape right now."

Fellow medical drama New Amsterdam, which airs on NBC, recently pulled an episode that hit a bit too close to home amid the current pandemic. Initially set to debut on April 7, the episode initially titled "Pandemic" and later renamed "Our Doors Are Always Open" was set to depict a deadly flu pandemic in New York City, which is currently considered to be the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States. Producers, the network, and the studio mutually agreed not to air the episode at this time, and Vernoff said that similar discussions would have to take place surrounding a potential coronavirus storyline at ABC.

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"I don't know," she said of the possibility of such a storyline occurring. "When I watch TV right now and people are shaking hands and hugging, it feels like a show from a different era. So I look forward to having the writers together — weighing the pros and cons together. We make those decisions as a group. I have a tremendous team of writers. And so I don’t want to make too many decisions without them, because when I do, I ended up changing my mind."

With Season 16 of the series only completing 21 of the ordered 25 hours before production ground to a halt due to the pandemic, Vernoff said that she plans to "gather the writers in about four weeks, and we're going to start talking about Season 17." At this time, she is unsure if the team will "use what we had planned for the last four episodes," explaining that "we may come up with some different ways to tell some of these stories."