Chris Polansky

News Anchor & Reporter

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.

 

His most recent stint at an NPR member station was as a general assignment reporter at Utah Public Radio in Logan, Utah, in 2019. His stories have also appeared in/on Gothamist / WNYC, the NPR national newscast, and the Brooklyn Eagle.

 

Chris is a New Jersey native and perpetually disappointed Mets fan who spent just about ten years in New York City before coming to Tulsa. He likes hiking and camping with his dog, Trout Fishing in America. He’s also a proud alumnus of Bike & Build, an affordable housing nonprofit with which he’s bicycled coast-to-coast twice: from Portland, Maine, to Santa Barbara (2014), and from Nags Head, North Carolina, to San Diego (2016). Both trips crossed Oklahoma. 

Ways to Connect

White House coronavirus task force

The Trump administration is calling on Gov. Kevin Stitt to increase efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Oklahoma as the state's pandemic numbers grow worse.

"Mitigation efforts must be strengthened, especially in areas with increasing cases and test positivity and new admissions," Vice President Mike Pence's White House coronavirus task force writes in a report dated Sunday and released by the state Wednesday. "These should include mask wearing, physical distancing, hand hygiene, avoiding crowds in public and social gatherings in private, and ensuring flu immunizations."

Courtesy Tulsa Community College

Citing a lower than average rate of bachelor's degree attainment for students who transfer from two-year to four-year colleges and universities, leaders of Tulsa-area institutions of higher education came together Tuesday to announce new transfer agreements in an attempt to help more students graduate.

"We can improve to be a better institution for transfer students, and that means TCC sending students to universities, and universities receiving Tulsa Community College students," said Dr. Leigh Goodson, TCC President.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said Wednesday that his office has declined requests from the Tulsa Police Department to bring charges against individuals alleged to have painted "Black Lives Matter" messages on city streets.

Wednesday's top stories:

  • Human remains have been found in the search for 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre victims, though they have not yet been confirmed to belong to an individual killed in the racist attack.
  • Voting access proponents say the Tulsa County Election Board isn't adequately informing voters of changes in early voting locations.
  • With COVID-19 hospitalizations at record highs, state officials say a hospital surge plan is not quite ready but will be released soon.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Voting access proponents staged a press conference Tuesday, saying Tulsa County and the Tulsa County Election Board aren't doing enough to communicate that early voting will take place over three days at ONEOK Field this year due to COVID-19, instead of the traditional early voting locations at the Hardesty Regional Library and the Election Board building on North Denver.

Tuesday's top stories:

  • With COVID-19 hospitalizations soaring, the Oklahoma State Medical Association is again urging Gov. Kevin Stitt to implement a statewide mask mandate, a move the governor has rejected countless times.
  • Middle, junior high and high school students will be allowed to return to in-person classes at Tulsa Public Schools in January, the TPS Board of Education voted Monday.

Google Maps Street View

The pastor of Tulsa's Victory Church is apologizing for a racist remark, directed at a local political candidate, made by an employee who he has since fired.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Excavation work began Monday at two locations in a Tulsa cemetery for victims of a race massacre nearly 100 years ago that left hundreds dead and decimated an area that was once a cultural and economic mecca for African Americans.

Researchers took a core soil sample at one location to give them a better idea of what lies beneath the soil, said Oklahoma State Archeologist Kary Stackelbeck.

Monday's top stories:

  • With hospitalizations from COVID-19 high, officials and public health experts are expressing concern over Oklahoma State Department of Health data practices.
  • The Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education is scheduled to meet Monday afternoon to discuss whether middle and high school should return to in-person learning as COVID-19 transmission remains high locally.
  • A new excavation in Oaklawn Cemetery begins Monday in the search for victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

KWGS News file photo

As Oklahoma continues to break records for COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rates, the Oklahoma Hospital Association is pleading with the public to keep the state's health care system from being overwhelmed.

Friday's top stories:

  • Oklahoma set records this week for new COVID-19 case average, hospitalizations, ICU patients, and active infections.
  • The Tulsa Health Department says it will be updating the way it reports local hospitalizations due to faulty data reporting from the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
  • The University of Tulsa Golden Hurricane homecoming game scheduled for Saturday has been postponed due to COVID-19 cases on the opposing roster.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

(This story was updated at 5:25 p.m. on Fri., Oct. 16, to add a response from Derek Pate, Director of the Center for Health Statistics at the Oklahoma State Department of Health.)

The Tulsa Health Department said Thursday it would be making changes to the way it reports COVID-19 hospitalizations after determining the Oklahoma State Department of Health data it previously relied on was inaccurate.

Tulsa Transit

Tulsa Transit has announced a new route aimed at serving Tulsans who rely on bus service for their commutes to and from several major area employers.

The Workforce Express Network, or Route 969, will run a closed-circuit loop connecting North Tulsa and Turley with employers including Whirlpool and the Macy's and Amazon fulfillment centers. Two connecting shuttles will also transport riders to the Port of Catoosa and Tulsa International Airport.

Facebook / Tulsa Police Department

Dozens of supporters cheered and looked on Thursday at Tulsa International Airport as Tulsa Police Department Ofc. Aurash Zarkeshan, injured in a June shooting, stepped off a plane following months of rehabilitation at an out-of-state facility.

Zarkeshan was immediately greeted by Mayor G.T. Bynum, who hugged him and said, "Welcome home!"

On a TPD livestream of the event, Zarkeshan, who appeared physically healthy and in good spirits, addressed the camera and more than 1,000 viewers directly.

Thursday's top stories:

  • Oklahoma remains in the top ten worst states for COVID-19 new cases per capita and test positivity in the country, according to Vice President Mike Pence's White House coronavirus task force. Pence's team also recommends increased mitigation efforts.
  • Researchers say Oklahoma lags far behind recommended levels of coronavirus testing and contact tracing.

Youtube / Oklahoma State Department of Health

Republican and Democratic state lawmakers are both expressing concern over Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt's announcement last week that the state's public health lab will be moved from Oklahoma City to Stillwater, using a combination of state funds and federal coronavirus relief funding.

In a Monday press release, Rep. Ryan Martinez (R-Edmond) said he would be filing legislation to keep the lab in the state capital and "question[ed] if this is the best use of CARES Act funds."

Reached by phone Wednesday, Martinez said he first heard about the plan on the news.

Oklahoma State Department of Health

Over seven months into Oklahoma's experience with the novel coronavirus, public health researchers say the state is falling far short of adequate levels of COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.

White House coronavirus task force

One week after the release of a White House coronavirus task force report stating that many of Oklahoma's recent COVID-19 deaths were preventable, which provoked a response from a spokesperson for Gov. Kevin Stitt disputing that as an "editorial opinion," a new report recommends the state ramp up its coronavirus response or risk further deaths.

Wednesday's top stories:

  • The Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education voted early Wednesday morning to allow students up to the 5th grade to return to in-person classes by the end of November.
  • Mayor G.T. Bynum says the city is considering additional measures beyond the mask mandate to address rising COVID-19 cases.
  • Local officials are stressing the importance of the flu vaccine even more this year, urging Tulsans to get their shots to help keep hospital capacity from spiraling out of control.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Younger students will be allowed to return to in-person classes next month following a prolonged all-virtual start to the Tulsa Public Schools year caused by troubling local rates of transmission of the novel coronavirus.

The Tulsa Public Schools board came up with its own plan for students to come back to school. Over the course of a seven-hour meeting, they settled on pre-K and kindergarten students returning on Nov. 9 and attending Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays will be distance learning days.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Local officials on Tuesday painted a dire picture of the weeks and months to come if COVID-19 infection and hospitalization trends don't improve in the Tulsa area.

"Currently, our 14-, 30- and 60-day trends are all showing an increase. Our 7-day rolling average is also increasing. Our 7-day rolling average is above where we were in mid- to late-July, just before our biggest spike in cases," said Dr. Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa Health Department.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Calling it as much about protecting your community as yourself, especially as flu season arrives during a global pandemic, Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist and Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum received flu shots at a Tuesday press conference and urged Tulsans to do the same.

Facebook / Tulsa County Sheriff's Office

The Tulsa County Sheriff's Office is responding to a COVID-19 outbreak inside the county jail, a spokesperson said Tuesday.

TCSO communications director Casey Roebuck said at a press conference that of a total population of 1,158 inmates being held as of Tuesday, 84 were actively infected with the novel coronavirus. 21 more were considered recovered, and six staff members were also infected. Roebuck said there have been no hospitalizations, but that inmates had received medical treatment in-house.

Wednesday's top stories:

  • The Oklahoma State Board of Education is demanding $11.2 million from Epic Charter Schools following the state's investigative audit into the school district.
  • More turnover in the cabinet of Gov. Kevin Stitt as his budget secretary resigns.

Greater Tulsa Area Indian Affairs Commission

The city of Tulsa's fourth annual Native American Day was held remotely Monday due to the coronavirus pandemic, with streaming performances, speeches, presentations and even a virtual vendors' market.

"Four years ago, the Greater Tulsa Area Indian Affairs Commission, Mayor [G.T] Bynum and the city council made a commitment to celebrate and recognize Native America Day each year on the second Monday of each October," said Matt Roberts, the event's emcee. "We appreciate Mayor Bynum's progressive and inclusive leadership."

Cherokee Nation

Cherokee Nation announced Friday its plans to open a meat processing facility in Tahlequah funded at least partially with federal coronavirus relief money.

"During the COVID-19 pandemic, beef and other meat sources were harder to supply to elders through emergency food distributions, and opening a meat processing facility will help sustain foods for Cherokee citizens and bring in jobs and agricultural opportunities for the tribe," the tribe said in a written statement.

Credit Shane Bevel Photography

A doctor at Saint Francis Health System has died, reportedly of COVID-19.

"We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to the family of our colleague Dr. Giancarlo Piano," Saint Francis said in a Saturday statement. "He was a well-respected member of the medical staff and known for his kindness and compassion."

"We pray for the heavenly repose of his soul and that his wife and sons be surrounded by love and the healing presence of Christ during this time of mourning," the statement concludes.

Monday's top stories:

  • Oklahoma is at record highs for multiple metrics in its COVID-19 outbreak, and the cumulative total of infections sits just under 100,000.
  • A St. Francis physician has died from the coronavirus.
  • Following the city's removal of the BLACK LIVES MATTER painting on Greenwood Avenue, activists painted BLM directly outside City Hall. Mayor G.T. Bynum says the act was not part of a peaceful protest but a criminal act.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

A number of demonstrations are scheduled around Tulsa Saturday, with potentially thousands gathering for a prayer march with the Tulsa Police Department and separate rallies against white supremacy.

TPD and Sheridan Church are scheduled to lead a "Faith In Blue" march, a faith-based event in support of law enforcement, from John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park on North Greenwood Avenue to TPD headquarters. The march was originally routed down through the heart of the Greenwood District, but Chief Wendell Franklin said he got "unsettling news" that there may be counterprotests.

Twitter / @GovStitt

(This story was updated on Fri., Oct. 9, at 2:52 p.m. to include comments from Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum received after publication.)

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