Dear Fellow Natchezians,
Many of you know me personally, and others only from my books. My wife and I have created this page to help our city work through the emergency that now confronts us. I am not a physician (as a legal disclaimer below will affirm), but I am working in the spirit of my father, Dr. Jerry Iles, who treated many of you as patients for nearly fifty years. If he were still alive, Dad would be working to help prepare the hospital for the coming crisis. In this moment, we must all unite to help the less fortunate and more vulnerable in our city. I am pursuing other efforts in this line as well, and some of you will be hearing from me soon.
For those of you who wonder whether the government is overreacting to the Covid-19 pandemic, please heed the words of renowned infectious disease specialist Dr. Anthony Fauci, who said: "If you think you're doing too much preparation, you just might be doing enough, but maybe not." Human nature makes it difficult for us to fully grasp a threat until it has touched us personally. For some people, Tom Hanks' announcement that he'd tested positive for Covid-19 was that moment. For others it was Idris Elba. Astonishingly, some people are still trying to minimize the danger, seeming to take great pleasure in being contrarians. These people are not part of the solution; they are part of the problem. All infectious disease specialists agree about the nature and scale of the pandemic confronting our nation.
What we face is not like a hurricane, a calamity that, however violent, will come and go over a few days. This global pandemic has no analogy in recent American history. Even the oldest among us, who lived through the Great Depression and World War Two, did not face an adversary that posed such a grave threat on our native soil. This is the reason that the President and the nation's governors have begun taking unprecedented steps to slow the virus.
Covid-19 poses a double threat: the first, medical; the second, economic. While things seem relatively calm now, the pace of an infectious pathogen like this one accelerates rapidly as it moves through a population. We do not need to panic, but we must recognize that profound and extended lifestyle changes will be required to "flatten the curve" of new infections, and thus prevent our hospital from being overrun with new cases. (Please see the Social Distancing page for more information). The preventive measures we're adopting now will be part of our reality for quite a while to come.
Accurate information received in a timely manner is one of the most powerful weapons we have in any crisis, and misinformation the most dangerous. On this site, we will strive to provide only the most accurate available facts and expert analysis. I may also provide personal vignettes of our town as our fellow citizens work their way through this new reality. Many people have already reached out to me with offers to help their neighbors in any way. Importantly, the Stewpot will continue to carry on its invaluable and unselfish mission to the less fortunate in our city. I hope that our churches will focus their missions close to home as the need increases. One of the great virtues of a small town like Natchez is that we are truly neighbors. It is not during times of ease and plenty that neighbors are tested, but in times of travail. Like the rest of America, we are about to be tested.
Like our forebears, we will not be found wanting.