Skip to Global Health Institute Full Site Menu Skip to main content
April 4, 2022

Unmasked: COVID, Community, and the Case of Okoboji

A mask to protect against COVID-19

Medical anthropologist Emily Mendenhall's book Unmasked: COVID, Community, and the Case of Okoboji is the story of what happened in Okoboji, a small Iowan tourist town when a collective turn from the coronavirus to the economy occurred in the COVID summer of 2020. State political failures, local negotiations among political and public health leaders, and community (dis)belief about the virus resulted in Okoboji being declared a hotspot just before the Independence Day weekend, when an influx of half a million people visit the town. Unmasked is a fascinating and heartbreaking account of where people put their trust, and how isolationist popular beliefs can be in America's small communities. An art exhibit was available for viewing. 

This event was sponsored by the Science, Technology and International Affairs (STIA) Program in partnership with the Global Health Initiative and the Mortara Center for International Studies


Emily Mendenhall is a professor in the Science, Technology, and International Affairs program in the School of Foreign Service. She is the author of Unmasked: COVID, Community, and the Case of Okoboji (2022).

Joel Hellman is the dean of the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.

Rebecca Katz is a professor in the Georgetown University Medical Center and School of Foreign Service. She is also the director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University.

Zachary Borus is a family physician, as well as the president and medical director of the Dickinson County Board of Health.

Zachary Gresham is an acquisitions editor for the Vanderbilt University Press.