Maryland Department of Health
Raising Public Awareness
“I have worked with people whose loved ones have passed away from COVID and it’s not easy. I always try to take that into each call that I’m making. I could be calling somebody who’s going through a difficult time.”
Irving Gaither was inspired to become a contact tracer in August 2020 in part as a result of suffering with COVID himself. During this time, Irving also decided to become one of the first African Americans to volunteer in the Moderna vaccine clinical trials and received his first vaccine shot in January 2021.
As Irving began his journey as a contact tracer in Anne Arundel County, he quickly realized he had to be flexible and react to events as they happened, rather than trying to keep everything under control.
He and his colleagues have tried to keep each other motivated to do good work during the pandemic. “I do notice we all do things differently,” he said. “We all interview differently, we all have things that we like to do that we’re most concerned about, then ask questions a little differently. Our approaches are different but, in the end people get the support and information that they need. That is what is most important.”
The most rewarding part about contact tracing for Irving has been when people thank him for what he is doing. Being able to see what happens when people in the community recognize that there is a need for vaccination and testing has also been quite rewarding
He described one pastor whose church became a vaccination site, and how resistant that person was to COVID-19 information at first. “When we interviewed him, he was very much in denial,” Irving said. We all work together and they became one of the first churches to provide a space for people to get vaccines early in the vaccine process. I felt like I had a little bit to do with that.”
Irving believes that the future of COVID recovery lies in public awareness. “Long-term education needs to happen, especially in our schools. It should be a part of our process in the future so that people are better prepared when the next pandemic comes through.”