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].


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

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

Lourdes Salinas stands in the elevated spot where she made phone calls and helped to evacuate residents during the June 2018 flood.
Culture

Underwater

Colonias on the Texas-Mexico border are hit hard even by small storms. For a local nonprofit, the solution lies in affordable, sustainable housing. But how do you rebuild in an area that keeps flooding?

Under Water Colonias on the Texas-Mexico border are hit hard even by small storms. For a local nonprofit, the solution lies in affordable, sustainable housing. But how do you rebuild in an area that keeps flooding? By Sophie Novack April … Read More

Lourdes Salinas en el punto elevado desde donde llamó para pedir ayuda y evacuar residentes en la inundación de Junio del 2018.
Border

Bajo el Agua

Las colonias, asentamientos irregulares en la frontera entre México y Texas, se ven sumamente afectadas por las tormentas, inclusive las más pequeñas. Para una asociación local sin fines de lucro, la solución está en generar vivienda accesible y sustentable, pero ¿cómo reconstruir en un área que se inunda constantemente?

Bajo el Agua Las colonias, asentamientos irregulares en la frontera entre México y Texas, se ven sumamente afectadas por las tormentas, inclusive las más pequeñas. Para una asociación local sin fines de lucro, la solución está en generar vivienda accesible … 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

Texas Had a State Office That Could Have Investigated Racial Disparities in COVID-19 Cases. Lawmakers Defunded it Three Years Ago.

While early reports elsewhere show African Americans disproportionately infected and dying from COVID-19, Texas’ data is incomplete.

In 2005, faced with data showing that black and Native American families were overrepresented in Texas’ child welfare system, lawmakers ordered Child Protective Services (CPS) to study whether staff treated any racial or ethnic groups more harshly than others. The … Read More

Carmen Zuniga.
Health Care

‘I Think I’m Gonna Die’: Coronavirus Compounds Risk for Dialysis Patients in the Rio Grande Valley

In the Valley, about one in three people have diabetes. They’re at higher risk for COVID-19, but those who rely on dialysis can’t stay home.

Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning, Carmen Zuniga leaves her house in McAllen before dawn to go to the dialysis center about four miles away. Zuniga has had diabetes for nearly three decades; the disease has left her mostly blind and … Read More

peter hotez
Health Care

Scientist Peter Hotez on Why Vaccine Development is ‘Critical to the Security of Our Nation’

Several years ago, Hotez and his colleagues developed a vaccine that may have prevented the new coronavirus—but they couldn’t get it funded.

Peter Hotez has spent his career studying infectious diseases that others weren’t paying attention to, developing vaccines that “no one else will make.” Four years ago, Hotez and a team of Texas scientists developed a vaccine that he now believes … Read More

abortion facilities
Health Care

Abortion Clinics in Texas Rely on Traveling Doctors. Coronavirus is Keeping Some of Them Home.

Providers and advocates say the pandemic highlights the need to end bans on telemedicine and requirements like the mandatory waiting period.

Since she became the medical director of her Dallas-Fort Worth abortion clinic in 2013, Robin Wallace has been trying to recruit more physicians to meet the growing demand. That year, the Texas Legislature passed the sweeping House Bill 2, which … Read More

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