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Grey’s Anatomy Captures Covid Reality

By Lori Perkins

I’ve been wondering just what we’re going to do as writers when we chronicle 2020. Are we going to skip the year entirely (as Stephen King decided to do when he released Later) or make it never-ending or use it as some sort of metaphor for all that is wrong with our world? I often wonder what genre fiction will look like after COVID. Will we have romances where seeing someone’s naked lips is as titillating as more intimate body parts? Science fiction without viruses? Horror without vampires and zombies?

And that leads me directly to the TV genre of medical soap operas. I have been watching Grey’s Anatomy every Thursday for its entire 17-year run. I have loved what creator Shonda Rhimes has done with the lives of Meredith Grey, Miranda Baily and Richard Webber in these two decades, but also how she has echoed changes within both the medical world and the lives of the middle-aged protagonists. I was anxious to see what she and the showrunners would do with the storyline in the wake of COVID.

Pretty soon after we went into lockdown, and the season was cut short, we were told that they were going to rewrite the ending of Season 16. When the show came back, they went right into COVID protocols and details, but it was mostly window-dressing. Until the lead character, Dr. Meredith Grey, got COVID. I found the stories around the hospital becoming more-COVID-centric, which I knew to be the true experience in hospitals in NYC (I have many friends in the medical professions) who told me there was nothing else but COVID for months. They didn’t sleep, see love ones, or go anywhere but the hospital, while colleagues, parents and children came down with the disease, or worse, didn’t make it. Scary, scary times.

And I am heartened to see that the story arc of Grey‘s Anatomy tells that real-life story, not just one or two COVID survival stories. I expect we’ll have a number of long-COVID tales in the months ahead.

I’m not the only one who sees this show as exemplary. According to a recent article in The Chicago Tribune, “of the medical dramas, Grey’s Anatomy gets the highest marks from Kishana Taylor, a virologist who is currently researching the role of monocytes in the development of severe COVID-19. She’s thinking about the coronavirus all day at work, and she appreciates that there’s at least one TV show getting it mostly right.”

Dr. Taylor told the Tribune, “Grey’s has met this head-on in that they are 100% steeped in COVID and they are very much adhering to COVID guidelines,” she said.

The Tribune pointed out that the show doesn’t just delve into the logistics of COVID but also the human aspect of providing health care during a pandemic. Dr. Taylor added, “You see the toll it takes on people who work in a hospital. I mean, the main character Meredith Grey actually has severe COVID.”


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