'Grey's Anatomy' Season 17 Sneak Peek: New Romances Tested, Meredith Helpless Over COVID (Exclusive)

Love in the time of COVID.

Love in the time of COVID. 

Grey's Anatomy dives into the middle of the pandemic in Thursday's two-hour premiere, but even with the challenges and the emotional weight that comes with that, new and old relationships are being tested in classic Shondaland style.

In ET's exclusive sneak peek at season 17, it's the first time we're seeing just how Maggie (Kelly McCreary) and Winston (Anthony Hill) fell in love in the months since sparks initially flew between them at the medical conference last season. As you can see, their blossoming long-distance romance is anything but normal in a time when FaceTime and Zoom are their only options for communication.

While Maggie and Winston's new relationship may be a silver lining amid a trying time for the doctors at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, other romances may be faltering or getting even more complicated. See the fleeting image of Levi (Jake Borelli) and Nico (Alex Landi) in a medical supply closet looking awfully close for being exes.

As Grey's zeroes in on how the pandemic affects its doctors, there's reason to worry over their well-beings.

Notable highlights from the sneak peek include Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) approaching a downcast McWidow (Richard Flood); Station 19's Ben (Jason George) and Bailey's (Chandra Wilson) emotionally charged, socially distanced goodbye; the doctors celebrating the arrival of "a new PPE motherlode"; and a distraught Meredith expressing her feeling of helplessness over COVID.

"So many things have changed and so much light has been shed on so many things that have been in the shadows for so long,' Hill recently told ET. "Being able to play out a virtual relationship as we get to know each other, I'm happy about because I think that's an aspect of the pandemic that hasn't been talked about very much, to be completely honest. Zooms and meetings have been talked about, but the dating world and getting to know somebody romantically, that's tough. It's a tough hurdle, and I think that it needs to be highlighted a little bit."

"One [of the] many challenges that we've all been facing during this time is a need for connection, you know?" McCreary also said. "And that is because there is so much confusion and fear and people feel terribly vulnerable right now, and no one really wants to be alone when they are feeling that way. And so what you get to see with Maggie and Winston is how much their moments together are like a refuge. They're healing, even though they can't be together, because that's what we're all going through right now. We're like, 'Oh my god, I just want to talk to somebody and if seeing your face on a screen is as close as I can get, I'll take it.'"

Grey's Anatomy returns with a two-hour premiere Thursday, Nov. 12 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC, after the premiere of Station 19. For more on the three-hour crossover premiere event, watch the video below.