Sophie Novack

Sophie Novack is a staff writer at the Observer covering public health. She previously covered health care policy and politics at National Journal in Washington, D.C. You can contact her at [email protected].

Planned Parenthood Returns to Lubbock

by and | Tue, Mar 2, 2021 at 8:00 am CST
State Rep. Sarah Davis speaks about the vaccination and cancer issues in regards to the HPV vaccine in the state during a news conference at the Capitol, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Austin, Texas. Texas could host the nation's next major fight over stricter requirements for immunizations as its rates of schoolchildren who refuse to get shots for non-medical reasons rises. (Deborah Cannon/Austin American-Statesman via AP)
Health Care

After Sarah Davis’ Election Defeat, Texas Reproductive Health Advocates Worry About Losing a Powerful Republican Ally

Democrats hoped to turn the Texas House blue. Instead they flipped just one seat: the most moderate Republican and only one to support abortion rights.

It was a Friday night in May 2019 when a six-hour House debate over a reproductive health bill ended the relative calm of Texas’ last legislative session. The measure, Senate Bill 22, proposed blocking local governments from partnering with abortion … Read More

Health Care

How We Got Here

Texas’ health system has been underfunded, understaffed, and unprepared for years. Here, COVID-19 found the perfect place to spread.

Texas’ health system has been underfunded, understaffed, and unprepared for years. Here, COVID-19 found the perfect place to spread. By Sophie Novack November 9, 2020 The room was packed, the shutters drawn against the Austin heat. It was September 17 … Read More

A sign points to the emergency room of Clay County Memorial Hospital on Friday, May 8, 2020. Residents of rural Clay County can get coronavirus tests at the local hospital with appointments from their health care provider. (Amanda McCoy/Fort Worth Star-Telegram via AP)
Health Care

COVID-19 is Surging in Rural Texas, Threatening to Overwhelm Local Hospitals

ICU beds are limited, medical providers are falling sick, and urban hospitals where small facilities transfer critical patients are running out of space.

Just a few weeks ago, officials in Starr County thought their community might make it through the COVID-19 pandemic as one of the few lucky ones. The rural county on the Texas-Mexico border is among the poorest in the United … Read More

The road to Rachel Mellard’s ranch south of Marfa, where she had a home birth last spring.
Health Care

The Traveling Midwife

In far West Texas, some women have to travel hours to give birth, endangering themselves and their babies. Could midwives help fill in the gap?

The Traveling Midwife In far West Texas, some women have to travel hours to give birth, endangering themselves and their babies. Could midwives help fill in the gap? By Sophie Novack June 15, 2020  Dawn Cockrell worried she wouldn’t … Read More

hall county, texas, center of town
Health Care

In Rural Texas, COVID-19 Contact Tracing is Largely Up to Local Officials, If It Happens at All

As public health experts warn of new waves of infections this summer or fall, experts say there’s still not a robust system in place to track the coronavirus, particularly in rural areas.

For the last few weeks, L.D. Williamson has fielded calls from worried neighbors. COVID-19 has spread quickly through Red River County in far Northeast Texas, and residents want to know who has it. Williamson, the county judge tasked with managing … Read More

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, left, speaks as Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, right, looks on during a news conference Monday, Oct. 20, 2014, in Dallas. Ebola fears began to ease for some Monday as a monitoring period passed for those who had close contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, a victim of the disease, and after a cruise ship scare ended with the boat returning to port and a lab worker on board testing negative for the virus. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Health Care

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins on Battling COVID-19, and the Governor, as Texas Reopens

“Now we're just working with this unprecedented state usurpation of local control, trying to keep people safe as best we can.”

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins was the first Texas official to declare a stay-at-home order for COVID-19 in March—more than a week before Governor Greg Abbott issued a similar statewide measure. This isn’t the first time Jenkins has navigated a … 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

medicaid expansion rally at the capitol in march
Health Care

Texas Has Stopped Kicking Thousands of Kids Off Medicaid Each Month During the Pandemic, but Advocates Point to Delays for New Enrollees

Texas' frequent eligibility checks for kids on Medicaid are on hold during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

For years, some Texas families have been stuck in a persistent cycle. Their kids are covered by Medicaid, until suddenly they’re kicked off. Sometimes parents don’t realize their children have lost coverage until they’re at the doctor’s office and find … Read More

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