Maryland Department of Health
Going Above and Beyond
“I don’t want to sound like a robot, I want to treat them like people. I talk to them with the script the same way I would talk to them if we were meeting in real life – just keep it down to earth.”
During the height of the pandemic, Norberto Morales became a full-time contact tracer when he moved with his wife to the Patuxent River Naval Air Base in St. Mary’s County. Given his previous work experience, Norberto was well equipped to handle the stress of being on the front lines and able to build meaningful connections with community members he called daily.
Norberto traces COVID-19 cases for both the English and Spanish speaking communities in St. Mary’s County. Even though he has been able to build connections with some community members, not every phone call Norberto makes was well received.
“At the very least, I know that they had the information they needed,” said Norberto “That was the most important thing from my call: How long they need to be at home for, and how long they need to stay away from other people. If I can get that across, that’s the most important part of my job.”
Going above and beyond is in his nature. Norberto frequently gives out his direct line to individuals and families he calls daily, and makes himself available as a resource even after they are done with their isolation and quarantine periods. Community members can reach back out for additional resources and questions at any time.
For one community member, Norberto was the only support left when the man’s COVID-19 took a turn for the worse in the hospital.. “This man called me from his deathbed,” Norberto said. “He gave me a call because he didn’t have anybody else to talk to. He kind of gave me his life story, until he felt content enough to just hang up. And so I sat there for about 45 minutes with him, trying to have a happy moment together.”
Despite tragic outcomes, Norberto finds satisfaction in contact tracing – particularly how appreciative people are when he has helped them.. “Just getting thank yous from a random family that you deal with – they might not want to talk to you at the beginning. By the end, when their whole family is coming out of isolation, they’re just thankful.”