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, NPR's Weekend Edition, 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

Friday's top stories:

• In what State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister is calling "an attack on Oklahoma's public education system," Gov. Kevin Stitt on Thursday requested an audit of the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

• A Tulsa Public Schools teacher has died of COVID-19, the district reports.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

A nonprofit established in the wake of the 2016 police killing of Tulsan Terence Crutcher is marking five years since his death this week with a series of commemorations and community events.

Thursday's top stories:

• OU's top COVID official says Oklahoma's epidemic is trending in the right direction, but mitigation still remains key and health care workers are still exhausted.

• An OU All-American gymnast testified on Capitol Hill about her reporting of team doctor Larry Nasser and subsequent lack of investigation into his serial sexual assault of athletes.

Wednesday's top stories:

• Democrats in the Oklahoma House of Representatives are proposing legislation to reduce the governor's power over the Oklahoma Health Care Authority following Gov. Kevin Stitt's removal of the only two medical doctors from its governing board.

• The Oklahoma Republican Party is again calling for a pressure campaign on the governor to get him to reverse his pro-refugee stance. The party says soon-to-arrive Afghan refugees are not welcome in the state.

Oklahoma House Democrats

Democratic members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Tuesday announced proposed legislation to limit certain powers of the governor related to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, following Gov. Kevin Stitt's abrupt and still-unexplained removal of the only two physicians on its governing board earlier this month.

U.S. Department of State

The Oklahoma Republican Party on Tuesday again urged followers to mount a pressure campaign on fellow Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt to oppose the resettlement of Afghan refugees in Oklahoma. 

Chairman John Bennett said in a Facebook video that he does not believe the federal government has properly vetted Afghans fleeing the Taliban who are being brought to the United States, despite the State Department's insistence to the contrary.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

The office of Gov. Kevin Stitt Tuesday again declined to answer the question of why the governor removed the only two physicians from the Oklahoma Health Care Authority board earlier this month.

Tuesday's top stories:

• The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board is recommending that Gov. Kevin Stitt commute the death sentence of Julius Jones, convicted of a 1999 murder he maintains he did not commit.

• A Yukon elementary school teacher has become at least the fifth known educator or school support staff member in Oklahoma to die of COVID-19 since July.

Monday's top stories:

• The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board on Monday will consider a commutation request from high-profile death row inmate Julius Jones.

• The Oklahoma Blood Institute is joining a consortium of other states' blood centers in a new partnership meant to boost the supply of blood products for potential emergency situations.

U.S. Department of State

Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma is preparing to welcome and help resettle hundreds of Afghan refugees in Tulsa in the coming weeks and months, with the first arrivals possible within the coming days.

"We'll be welcoming those families very soon into our community," said Deacon Kevin Sartorius. He said they expect roughly 200 families for a total of about 800 individuals.

Each of the families has at least one member who aided the U.S. mission during the war in Afghanistan, Sartorius said, and all have been vetted and approved by the State Department.

Friday's top stories:

• Officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health say they've abandoned a plan for a statewide contract to bring in more health care workers to aid strained hospitals amid the current COVID surge.

• The governor and several Oklahoma lawmakers are lashing out against the Biden administration's plans to get more Americans vaccinated.

• Tulsa is expected to receive roughly 800 Afghan refugees for resettlement in the coming weeks.

Thursday's top stories:

• Doctors at the Children's Hospital at Saint Francis say pediatric COVID admissions are rising rapidly and "exponentially."

• With hundreds of Afghan refugees due to arrive in the state in coming weeks and months, the Oklahoma Republican Party says the families are not welcome here and is calling on lawmakers to prevent them from entering.

Oklahoma Republican Party

The Oklahoma Republican Party on Saturday said the state should not welcome Afghan refugees fleeing Taliban rule following the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

In a video posted to the party's Facebook page, party chair John Bennett called on Oklahomans to speak up about the fact that they are anti-refugee.

"I encourage you to call and email the governor, call and email your legislators, and tell them: Do not allow Afghan refugees into Oklahoma," said Bennett, who, in addition to leading the state GOP, is also an Assembly of God preacher at a church in Muldrow. 

Saint Francis Health System

COVID-19 admissions are rising "exponentially" at the Children's Hospital at Saint Francis, doctors said Tuesday.

"You're going to see about a six and a half-time increase in hospitalizations" from the start of June through the end of August, said Dr. Travis Campbell, chair of the pediatrics department and the children's hospital, said during a virtual press briefing Tuesday afternoon. 

Wednesday's top stories:

• Hospital officials say the latest COVID surge in Oklahoma is exacerbating the state's ongoing nursing shortage.

• The ombudsman for Oklahoma's long-term care facilities says low pay in that industry is contributing to a staffing shortage there, too.

Cherokee Nation

Cherokee Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. emphasized his commitment to achieving "complete sovereignty" in his annual State of the Nation address on Saturday.

Tuesday's top stories:

• A temporary injunction preventing Oklahoma from enforcing its ban on public school mask requirements goes into effect this week.

• Gov. Kevin Stitt this weekend removed the only two physicians from the Oklahoma Health Care Authority board of directors.

With Oklahoma hospitals reporting some patients dying waiting for care at over-capacity hospitals and some being transferred to facilities in farflung states like South Dakota and Idaho amid the current COVID surge, the state's top health official said Thursday he believes state hospitals have the ability to take on more patients than they are.

Friday's top stories:

• Abortion rights advocates filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking to block a number of strict anti-abortion laws set to take effect in Oklahoma on Nov. 1.

• The city of Stillwater declared a state of emergency Thursday, citing no hospital capacity for either COVID or non-COVID patients.

Facebook / Mayor Will Joyce

The mayor of Stillwater declared a state of emergency Thursday, saying the current surge in COVID cases had pushed the local hospital system to the brink.

"Our health professionals have incessantly warned us that we may reach the point when much-needed medical attention, COVID or non-COVID related, may not be available,” Mayor Will Joyce said in a news release. “We have now reached that critical threshold where our hospital no longer has available staffed beds and without each of us making necessary health changes, the trajectory is anticipated to continue declining.”

Thursday's top stories:

• A judge in Oklahoma County issued an injunction Wednesday, temporarily halting the state from enforcing a ban on public school mask mandates.

• The Tulsa City Council voted Wednesday to approve an incentive program that provides for cash payments to vaccinated municipal employees.

Wednesday's top stories:

• A judge in Oklahoma City will consider a lawsuit that alleges the state's ban on public school mask requirements is discriminatory against students who can't safely attend classes without universal masking.

• Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) allegedly threatened the U.S. ambassador to Tajikistan during one of two attempts to reach Afghanistan with a large amount of cash. He claims to have been attempting to help evacuate an American family. 

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Oklahoma Republican Rep. Markwayne Mullin's whereabouts were unknown Tuesday evening after reportedly threatening embassy staff in Tajikistan while attempting to reach Afghanistan, according to the Washington Post.

Tuesday's top stories:

• Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said Monday he has not felt a "sense of urgency" from local health system leaders sufficient for him to support a new mask mandate for the city.

• The U.S. Department of Education is investigating Oklahoma and four other states for potentially violating civil rights with their bans on public school mask mandates.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said Monday that he still does not see a present need for a mandatory mask ordinance in the city.

"I'm going to have to have a lot greater sense of urgency from our health care systems than we have right now," Bynum said during a virtual press briefing. "And hopefully we don't get there."

The mayor noted that he supported and signed the previous mask order in July of 2020 due to local hospital leaders telling him it was essential to prevent the collapse of the health care system.

City of Norman

The city of Norman on Friday asked residents to help conserve water as a critical need for oxygen to treat COVID-19 patients in the region's hospitals has led to a reduction in the supply of oxygen available to municipal water agencies.

Oklahoma State Department of Health

Oklahoma's top health official said Thursday that while he recognizes state government has outlawed school mask requirements, he does believe universal masking in schools would be ideal to keep students and staff safe from the growing threat of COVID-19.

"It's not a perfect world and that's not a possibility, so, I want everybody to wear a mask at school," Oklahoma State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye told Public Radio Tulsa during a virtual press briefing on Thursday when asked if he would ideally want schools to be able to enforce mask requirements.

Friday's top stories:

• A 13-year-old Oklahoma City Public Schools middle schooler has died of COVID-19.

• Tulsa Public Schools says they are "strengthening their mask expectation," but will not require or mandate masks.

• Oklahoma's attorney general says he will pursue legal action related to public school districts that require masks in defiance of a state law banning districts from doing so in an attempt to protect students and staff.

Tulsa Public Schools

Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist announced in a letter to district families on Thursday that in response to a troublingly high level of COVID-19 transmission in the community, school officials are pursuing "a temporary strengthening of the mask expectation we have in place throughout our district."

Pages