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When Okoboji became a COVID-19 hotspot, this medical anthropologist conducted research to figure out what happened and why

Talk of Iowa, hosted by Charity Nebbe

Charity Nebbe talks to medical anthropologist Emily Mendenhall, who's from Okoboji. She decided to study the pandemic in her hometown.

Emily Mendenhall is a medical anthropologist originally from a small town in Iowa. When that town — Okoboji — became a COVID-19 hotspot, Mendenhall conducted interviews with more than 100 individuals in the area during the summer and fall of 2020. That work resulted in a book.

On this episode of Talk of Iowa, Mendenhall joins host Charity Nebbe to share what she learned writing Unmasked: COVID, Community and the Case of Okoboji.

This episode originally aired 4-7-22


  • Emily Mendenhall, medical anthropologist, professor, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Matthew was a producer for IPR's River to River and Talk of Iowa
Samantha McIntosh is a talk show producer at Iowa Public Radio. Prior to IPR, Samantha worked as a reporter for radio stations in southeast and west central Iowa under M&H Broadcasting, and before that she was a weekend music host for GO 96.3 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.