FORT APACHE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - When the coronavirus started sweeping through the Fort Apache Reservation in Arizona, Grant Real Bird, 23, felt a calling to help his tribe.
In May, the incoming senior at Arizona State University joined a contact tracing program with Johns Hopkins University and the Indian Health Service.
"I knew that I wanted to do something to help. I knew that things needed to be done in my community," said Real Bird.
Real Bird said he would go out with a team of physicians or pharmacists. They informed people they tested positive for the virus or had been exposed. Often times, it wasn't easy.
"Some of them cried. It was very difficult for them. Sometimes they thought it was a death sentence," said Real Bird. "I was like, 'No, don't think about it like that. Think of it as you are going to get through it.'"
Still, he said those experiences felt very personal at times.
"A lot of the grandmas over there look like my grandma. So in a way, I felt a sense of connection with them when I told them that they were positive," said Real Bird.
Real Bird is now back in school, studying environmental management. He said he has a newfound appreciation for those on the COVID-19 frontlines.
"Even though my time is done, they are still out there fighting. They are out there trying to trace people down and make sure they are OK," said Real Bird.