The Grey's Anatomy docs will be on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic when the ABC hospital drama returns for its 17th season some time in the future.
"We're going to address this pandemic for sure," Vernoff said. "There's no way to be a long-running medical show and not do the medical story of our lifetimes."
The Grey's Anatomy boss said the show's writing team has been consulting with real-life doctors who have been dealing with the global health crisis. She added that some of the doctors are "shaking and crying" as they detail their experiences with COVID-19.
"They're talking about it as war — a war that they were not trained for," Vernoff said. "And that's been one of our big conversations about [former Army trauma surgeon] Owen [played by Kevin McKidd], that he's actually trained for this in a way that most of the other doctors aren't."
The TV producer added that she feels it is Grey's Anatomy's "responsibility" to share some of the stores based on real-life experiences. She promised that writers will try to keep humor and romance "alive" while telling "these really painful stories."
Fans know that Grey Anatomy's writers regularly consult with real medical professionals to come up with storylines for the Grey Sloan staffers.
While some of the drama's stories over the first 16 seasons have seemed far-fetched -- one patient swallowed 10 Judy doll heads and another was completely encased in cement– the coronavirus crisis is, unfortunately, very real so writers will have to be careful with the topic that will be hit close to home to so many viewers.
As with most scripted series, Grey's Anatomy is currently on hiatus due to Californa's filming restrictions during the health crisis. There is not an official date for production of the long-running Thursday night staple to resume, nor is there a premiere date on ABC's fall schedule.
Grey's Anatomy is not the only ABC series that will tackle coronavirus head-on once it does return to television. The Conners showrunner Bruce Helford told TVLine the sitcom will "absolutely" face the pandemic in Season 3.
The Roseanne spinoff will address how the struggling Conner clan will deal with the financial impact of COVID-19.
"I would think somebody in the family would be taking the jobs no one else wants, [like] working in grocery stores," Helford said. "They'd be taking jobs that put them at risk because they need the money, like most of blue-collar America."
In addition, the Lunch Box diner owned by Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) and Becky (Lecy Goranson) could face trouble due to COVID-related small business shutdowns.