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Grey’s Anatomy is paying tribute to those who have died from COVID-19. At the end of Season 17, Episode 5, “Fight the Power,” which saw Dr. Bailey grapple with the loss of her mother, Grey’s Anatomy aired a long scroll of names of real-life patients who have lost their lives to the deadly virus. “Even in their deaths, they are not faceless,” said Chandra Wilson’s voiceover, as she began to read off the list. “They are not nameless. They are more than statistics.”
For weeks, Grey’s Anatomy has focused heavily on COVID-19 — Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) is currently on a ventilator and fighting for her life — but last night, the ABC drama brought the pandemic into the real world with a devastating tribute to the 293,000 Americans who have died since March. The episode focused primarily on Dr. Bailey’s (Wilson) mother, who contracted COVID-19 while living in an Alzheimer’s care facility. When it became clear that her mother would not survive, Bailey commiserated with Maggie (Kelly McCreary) about the ways in which the pandemic has disproportionately affected Black and brown Americans. “I don’t want her to be just another Black woman statistic in this pandemic count!” says Bailey.
“Fight the Power” concludes with a powerful goodbye between Bailey and her mother, set to an acoustic rendition of “I Got Sunshine” by The Temptations. As Bailey quietly sings along, her voiceover insists that those who have died of COVID-19 are “baseball-loving nurses with an easy laugh,” “great-grandfathers who loved Broadway,” and “the world’s greatest mothers, and the most beloved wives.” After the Grey’s Anatomy title card appears, hundreds of names scroll on screen to remind viewers of the very human toll this pandemic has taken.
“The inspiration for saying the names in the final voiceover was multifactorial,” said the episode’s writer and Grey’s Anatomy medical consultant, Zoanne Clack. “When my mom contracted and almost died of COVID, I was so mad that she might go down in history as one of the nameless, faceless ramifications of this disease. I was seeing how it was disproportionately affecting Black Americans, older Americans, and people who lived in assisted living.”
“My mom was all of those,” she continued “But she was also a teacher who has influenced many successful lives and she has an infectious laugh. That was the story I wanted people to remember, not that she was a victim of a pandemic. Fortunately after a long and hard fought seven-week battle, she is now a Covid survivor. So she doesn’t have to be one among many. But there are so many who are among the many and who deserve to be more than numbers or statistics.”