Lise Olsen

Lise Olsen is a Houston-based senior writer and editor, working mom, and yogini. Reach her at [email protected] or by phone or Signal at 281-454-1933.

Part of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's William G. McConnell Unit in Beeville, Texas, stands at sunset Wednesday, April 15, 2020. More than 26,000 people have been locked down in 22 Texas prisons that are keeping prisoners in their cells in an effort to contain the coronavirus, according to the TDCJ's most recent numbers. The McConnell Unit is not one of the 22. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Criminal Justice

Texas Health Officials Undercount COVID-19 Cases by Excluding Some Prisoners Who Tested Positive

The Observer identified at least nine Texas counties where current prison cases make up more than 10 percent of the total COVID-19 cases in the county.

COVID-19 cases have skyrocketed in Texas prisons in recent weeks, with the virus infecting and killing incarcerated people and staff, and likely spreading into nearby communities through the thousands of workers who travel back and forth each day. Yet some … Read More

Dianne Gonsoulin Hastings, pictured outside her Austin home, spent decades looking for her sister Donna.
Criminal Justice

The Disappeared

Genetic genealogy is helping to crack cold cases and identify victims left nameless for decades. The process is surprisingly effective—and controversial.

Genetic genealogy is helping to crack cold cases and identify victims left nameless for decades. The process is surprisingly effective—and controversial. By Lise Olsen May 4, 2020  For nearly 30 years, Dianne Gonsoulin Hastings tried to discover what befell her … Read More

Julie Janke, a medical technologist at Principle Health Systems and SynerGene Laboratory, holds blood samples to be tested for COVID-19 antibodies Tuesday, April 28, 2020, in Houston. The company, which opened two new testing sites Tuesday, is now offering a new COVID-19 antibody test developed by Abbott Laboratories.
Health Care

Demand for Plasma Therapy for the Sickest COVID-19 Patients Far Outpaces Donations

Texas blood banks and the Red Cross are actively recruiting donors but remain thwarted by a lack of antibody tests.

A few weeks ago, the Food and Drug Administration dropped a huge project in the lap of the American Red Cross: Help sign up enough people to donate plasma rich with COVID-19 antibodies to treat more than 6,500 patients clamoring … Read More

A dummy once used for rehabilitation therapy at Bowie Memorial Hospital.
Health Care

Dozens of COVID-19 Cases Have Been Reported in Rural Texas Counties With No Hospitals and No Licensed Physicians

So far, more than 100 cases have been reported in counties with only one—or no—licensed physician.

The first reported COVID-19 death in Texas arrived unexpectedly in a rural hospital with just six beds in its tiny ICU. Eddie Roberts, a 97-year-old funeral home owner and World War II veteran, died March 15 at Matagorda Regional Medical … Read More

Medical professionals wait by empty beds during a tour of the new Harris County Non-Congregate Medical Shelter at NRG Park Saturday, April 11, 2020, in Houston. The new temporary setup will have 250 beds initially with a capacity of 2000 beds, if needed, to help relieve pressure on the hospital system from COVID-19 patients. Activation is not intended at this time. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Health Care

Houston Is Ground Zero for a Potentially Lifesaving COVID-19 Treatment

A plasma treatment trial is now rolling out nationwide, but a lack of tests remains a roadblock.

Houston attorney Troy Chandler is a big guy—6-foot-2 and 250 pounds—but on March 12 he felt as though he’d been hit by a truck. The first time he went to the emergency room at Houston Methodist Hospital, doctors “looked at … Read More

An apartment complex in Houston.

A Day in the Harris County Eviction Court

Harris County evictions increased dramatically from 2015 to 2016, and then remained higher from 2017 to 2019. No one knows why.

Each Wednesday, the wooden benches in the Harris County courtroom of Justice of the Peace Jeremy L. Brown fill with particularly tense people—most are landlords or lawyers bearing folders of unpaid bills. Meanwhile, defendants shift nervously in their seats, quietly … Read More

The line to vote at 9:25 p.m. at Texas Southern University.
Texas Politics

Democratic Voters Surge in Texas Primary, Waiting in Punishingly Long Lines as Officials Struggle to Keep Up

Grueling wait times stretched hours past closing time at polling locations across Texas. One voter in Houston waited nearly seven hours to cast his ballot.

One of the biggest and most disturbing storylines to emerge on Super Tuesday wasn’t about any top-of-the-ticket race, but rather the shockingly long wait times as some Texas polling locations struggled to keep up with increased turnout.  According to the … Read More

An "I voted" sticker.
Texas Politics

What You Need to Know About Voting on Super Tuesday

A record number of Texans are registered to vote. But will they? And why should you?

Ahead of the March primaries, the number of registered voters in Texas hit a record 16 million—a million more than 2018 and almost 2 million more than the 2016 presidential race. This week, we’ll find out if they will actually … Read More

Jeremy Slack, photographed on the Cesar E. Chavez Border Highway in El Paso, recently led a research team that interviewed more than 1,100 people to learn what happens to deportees in Mexico.

Researcher Jeremy Slack on the Horrors that Await Immigrants Deported from the U.S.

Slack led a massive research effort to learn what happens to those whom immigration authorities deport and dump all along the Mexican border.

As an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Arizona, Jeremy Slack began crossing the border into Mexico not to down shots of tequila, but to interview the displaced. Tall, blond, and at first speaking only high school Spanish, the Virginia … Read More