Christopher Collins

Christopher Collins is an investigative journalist based in Abilene. The Wichita Falls native graduated from Midwestern State University in 2012 with a degree in Mass Communication. He previously has worked as a reporter at the Abilene Reporter-News and the Wichita Falls Times Record News, along with running a freelance reporting business. He is an associate editor at the Observer. He previously was a staff writer covering rural Texas. He can be reached on Twitter or at [email protected]

By Christopher Collins:

cute drawing of a bear holding a texas sign with an orange suitcase with its thumb out as though looking for a ride somewhere

Strangest State: Bear With Us

Weird news from far-flung Texas.

SAN YGNACIO // One May night in Zapata County, a game camera at the SpinTech-Myers Ranch captured the image of a mysterious, four-legged figure. Ranch managers wondered if it was a humongous wild hog. The next day, when the camera … Read More

Health Care

With Storage Space Evaporating, the Oil and Gas Industry Will Get to Put Its Products Back Underground

The Railroad Commission has rolled back rules that once prohibited producers from storing liquid hydrocarbons in geological formations across the state, despite risks to aquifers.

Last month, as the COVID-19 pandemic pushed oil prices into negative figures, drillers in the state’s sprawling shale plays were still pumping and piping oil and gas to the Texas Gulf Coast as usual. But there was a problem: The … Read More

Illustration of Greg Abbott and cotton swabs.
Health Care

Is Texas Inflating Its COVID-19 Testing Numbers by Including Antibody Tests?

The state health department is including some antibody test results in its case totals, potentially clouding information on the current spread of the virus.

Texas health officials are combining some antibody tests along with more common viral tests in statewide COVID-19 tracking data. Experts say this muddies the data and potentially helps pad testing numbers while giving the public a distorted view of the … Read More

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott holds the Governor's Report to Reopen Texas book during a news conference where he announced he would relax some restrictions imposed on some businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Monday, April 27, 2020, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Health Care

In Rural Counties, COVID-19 Cases are Likely Undercounted. Greg Abbott Wants to Reopen them Anyway.

More than 100 Texas counties—many with limited medical resources—will be able to reopen businesses to 50 percent capacity on Friday.

In Red River County, a community of about 12,000 in far northeast Texas, the first confirmed COVID-19 case didn’t come until mid-April, despite the ballooning number of cases in surrounding counties and across the state. But the rural county, which … Read More

News, Rural Reporting Project

Workers at Tyson Poultry Plant in East Texas Say the Company Put Them at Risk of COVID-19

Tyson employees interviewed by the Observer say that as the coronavirus spread through the facility in April, the company failed to notify them of the danger in a timely manner so they could protect themselves.

Officials at Tyson’s poultry processing plant in Shelby County may have waited weeks to tell workers that an employee had tested positive for COVID-19, preventing other workers from taking action to prevent the spread of the virus inside the facility, … Read More

industrial chicken farm
Health Care

COVID-19 Cases Now Tied to Meat Plants in Rural Texas Counties Wracked with Coronavirus

The outbreaks, which are being investigated by the state health agency, represent the first reported cases of the virus inside Texas meatpacking plants, and are in rural areas where medical resources are already stretched thin.

A meatpacking plant in Deep East Texas appears to be connected to an outbreak of COVID-19 in a rural part of the state where the number of coronavirus cases has skyrocketed in recent weeks. The state health department is investigating … Read More

Texas Politics

The COVID-19 Disaster Has Made a Mess of Texas’ Open Government Rules

Some government officials in Texas appear to be exploiting the pandemic as a way to hide public business from the public.

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and opportunistic public servants, government agencies now have carte blanche to operate in secret for as long as this crisis persists—and perhaps even longer. On March 13, Governor Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster, … Read More

A "vessel of opportunity" skims oil spilled after the Deepwater Horizon well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010.

COVID-19 is Buying Time for Gulf Coast Towns Fighting Oil and Gas Projects

In Surfside Beach, Port Aransas, and elsewhere, contentious new infrastructure projects may be stalled by the accelerating pandemic.

Surfside Beach, a village of 560 people an hour south of Houston, is known for a few things: It has one of the state’s handful of drive-on beaches, attracting droves of families each summer to soak up the sun and … Read More

News, Political Intelligence, Rural Reporting Project, The Issue

As Texans are Exposed to Dangerous Pesticides, Lawmakers Aren’t Doing Anything

Pesticide drift is exposing rural Texans to dangerous chemicals. But lawmakers are more concerned with how that is eating into Big Ag’s balance sheet.

In the interim between legislative sessions, Texas lawmakers on the House Agriculture Committee will have an opportunity to examine an important but under-the-radar problem that’s making people sick in farming communities across the state. Then again, their attention might drift. … Read More