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

Kevin Stitt campaign photo

One day after Gov. Kevin Stitt made conflicting statements regarding a planned visit from White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, no further clarity has emerged from Oklahoma City.

President Donald Trump announced the visit by Birx -- to provide "aggressive, tailored and targeted guidance" on handling the coronavirus -- in a Wednesday press conference.

At a press conference on Thursday, Stitt alternated between saying his office had invited Birx and that they hadn't. The governor said he didn't know what site or sites Birx wanted to visit.

Friday's top stories:

  • Okla. Gov. Kevin Stitt says Oklahomans don't need any further federal coronavirus relief...
  • ...his top health official contradicts his assertion about the state's pandemic trends...
  • ...and he doesn't know whether or not the state invited Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, whose recommendations Stitt has so far refused to implement.

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Tulsa Public Schools has reached out to Oklahoma's Congressional delegation and the Tulsa City Council to discuss their need for support for the district's nutrition programs.

In a Wednesday meeting of the Tulsa City Council's urban and economic development committee, TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist said that when schools abruptly closed to in-person learning in the spring due to the coronavirus pandemic, the district still managed to serve 1.5 million meals via deliveries and distributions. 

Twitter / @JimInhofe

Oklahoma's senior United States senator said Thursday that allegations of ethics violations made by the state Democratic party were unfounded.

"Yet again, the only thing the Democrats can come up with are false attacks against me," Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said in an emailed statement provided by a spokesperson for his reelection campaign. "They won’t distract me from doing my only job: protecting Oklahoma families from a radical liberal agenda.”

Thursday's top stories:

  • President Donald Trump says Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, will visit Oklahoma next week. Okla. Gov. Kevin Stitt has refused to comply with the task force's recommendations for the state.
  • Public health, education and business leaders are all expressing concern over testing delays. 

Twitter / @WhiteHouse

President Donald Trump announced that Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House's coronavirus task force, will visit Oklahoma next week on a tour of states "to deliver aggressive, tailored and targeted guidance."

The visit comes as Okla. Gov. Kevin Stitt is under scrutiny for declining to implement the task force's recommendations to combat the coronavirus.

A committee meeting of the Tulsa City Council held virtually on Wednesday grew tense at times as councilors discussed the "Black Lives Matter" mural on the street surface of a block of North Greenwood Avenue.

Instagram / Downtown Coordinating Council

A consulting firm hired in 2019 by the City of Tulsa to develop a plan for a restructuring of downtown management has recommended the creation of a new, independent entity.

Representatives of Colorado-based Progressive Urban Management Associates, or PUMA, presented their strategic plan at a Tuesday virtual meeting of the Downtown Coordinating Council, a body that currently reports to, but only makes recommendations to, the mayor. Under the consultancy's plan, the DCC would be abolished and replaced.

Wednesday's top stories:

  • Despite evidence to the contrary, Gov. Kevin Stitt continues to claim Oklahoma is doing better in handling the COVID-19 pandemic well, and is months ahead of other states.
  • Dr. Bruce Dart, Tulsa Health Department director, says the percent-positive rate of tests conducted by THD is "extremely high," and is reiterating his call for schools not to open this month for in-person learning due to the risk of transmission.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Tulsa County continues to see "widespread virus" in the community, as delays in testing contribute to difficulties in properly responding to the pandemic, according the Tulsa Health Department Director Dr. Bruce Dart.

At a press conference Tuesday at Tulsa Police Department headquarters, Dart said that testing laboratories are "swamped," leading to numbers from the Oklahoma State Department of Health that may be less useful due to being dated.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

It's he-said-they-said between Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum and key stakeholders in the Greenwood District, as the conflict continues over whether or not the unauthorized "BLACK LIVES MATTER" mural on Greenwood Avenue can remain.

Tuesday's top stories:

  • Because of the severity of the local COVID-19 outbreak, the Tulsa Public Schools board voted 6-1 for an all-virtual first nine weeks of school.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

The city of Tulsa announced Monday that it intends to follow through on its plans to remove the Black Lives Matter painting on the roadway of North Greenwood Avenue

The unauthorized street painting, completed in the lead-up to Juneteenth and President Trump's visit to Tulsa, was a subject of discussion at a Tulsa City Council committee meeting last week, where it was  concluded it would be removed due to not having a city-issued permit, and potentially opening the doors to legally having to allow any other painted messages.

Century Foundation

An analysis of federal Department of Labor statistics found that, under a coronavirus relief plan proposed by Senate Republicans, Oklahomans would see the steepest average cut – 57% – in combined state and federal unemployment payments.

Twitter / @OUMedicine

Hospital leaders say Oklahoma’s doctors and nurses are feeling the strain of the coronavirus pandemic after weeks of elevated hospitalizations.

"The constancy of preparedness and concern of coming to work in this environment takes a tremendous toll," said OU Medicine President and CEO Chuck Spicer in a Friday virtual town hall hosted by Rep. Kendra Horn (D-Okla).

Dr. Kersey Winfree, Vice President of Operations for SSM Health Saint Anthony, said there can be a mental health component to diagnoses when providers test positive for the virus, a not-uncommon occurence.

Twitter / @RepKendraHorn

U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn, Oklahoma's lone Congressional Democrat, said that while the two parties in Congress don't see eye-to-eye on much, there is some level of consensus on what should be included in the next coronavirus relief package.

"The areas that I think there is strong, bipartisan agreement is in the need to continue to fund research — research on vaccine development, treatment, PPE and other critical resources for our health care community, as well as funding for state and local governments, because we know the toll," Horn said on a virtual town hall event on Friday.

Monday's top stories:

  • Congress has yet to reach an agreement on a new coronavirus relief package, even after federal unemployment payments expired last week. Oklahoma's lone Congressional Democrat, Rep. Kendra Horn, has suggested the $600-a-week payments could be too generous.
  • As hospitalizations from COVID-19 continue at high levels, doctors, nurses, and other health care workers are feeling the physical and emotional strain.

Twitter / @realdonaldtrump

Officials in Tulsa said Thursday that a direct causal connection cannot be drawn between the coronavirus infection of former presidential candidate Herman Cain and his attendance at President Trump's rally last month at the BOK Center.

"I don't know how he caught it," Mayor G.T. Bynum said of Cain, who, like the majority of the 6,000-person crowd at the rally, did not wear a mask in the arena. "I haven't seen any conclusive information on where he got it from."

Dr. Bruce Dart, director of the Tulsa Health Department and a personal friend of Cain, agreed.

Facebook / Governor Kevin Stitt

Despite recommendations from the Trump administration that the state of Oklahoma implement far stricter restrictions to combat the coronavirus, a spokesperson for Gov. Kevin Stitt said Friday that they're just that -- recommendations.

"The Governor’s office followed up after the Task Force’s latest report and the White House confirmed that these are not mandates and that the State is not out of compliance with any federal orders," said Baylee Lakey, the governor's communications director, in an emailed statement.

Friday's top stories:

  • Gov. Kevin Stitt, pushing for schools to open for in-person learning, announced $10 million of federal coronavirus relief funds will go to purchasing personal protective equipment for schools.
  • Dr. Bruce Dart of the Tulsa Health Department recommends an all-virtual start to the school year.

YouTube / Epic Charter Schools

In a video address ahead of the fall semester, Epic Charter Schools co-founder Ben Harris claimed that what parents may have heard about the school in relation to an active law enforcement investigation is not true.

"Some of those families coming to us may be skeptical of sending their children to us because of the negative and unfair and often flatout inaccurate news about us the past few years," Harris said. 

Tulsa Police Department

The officer who survived a traffic stop shooting in June, and the widow of the sergeant slain, are expressing gratitude for the support of Tulsans following the event.

"Thank you, Tulsa, for your continued love and support through my recovery," said Officer Aurash Zarkeshan in a video posted by the Tulsa Police Department. "I can't wait to be back home."

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

With new coronavirus infections increasing more rapidly among younger people than other demographics, Dr. Bruce Dart of the Tulsa Health Department said that the return to school for districts in Tulsa County should be all-virtual for now due to the severity of the local outbreak.

Thursday's top stories:

  • Federal lawmakers are demanding answers from Gov. Kevin Stitt for allegedly ignoring White House guidance to implement stricter virus measures due to the severity of the state's COVID-19 outbreak.
  • The state's numbers for cases and deaths continues to climb.

Facebook / Broken Arrow High School

In a 5-0 vote, the Broken Arrow Public Schools Board of Education voted on Wednesday to accept the district administration's plan to move forward with a return to in-person learning for the upcoming fall semester beginning Aug. 19th.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Greenwood's proclamation that "BLACK LIVES MATTER" will be erased from the road surface by the city of Tulsa.

In a Wednesday meeting of the Tulsa City Council's committee on urban and economic development, councilors, attorneys and a representative from City Hall discussed what to do about the painting, which was done without a city permit.

The discussion was raised by Councilor Cass Fahler, who said that pro-police groups have inquired about the legality of painting their own message -- "BACK THE BLUE" -- on some other block in Tulsa. 

Wednesday's top stories:

  • A COVID-19 has struck the Claremore Veterans Center, with 62 residents and 21 staff members infected. Ten residents have died this month alone.
  • Thirteen more Oklahomans were reported to have died on Tuesday.
  • CDC Director Robert Redfield appeared on a local television news station to tell Oklahomans that they have the power to bring the outbreak under control if they just follow simple guidelines.

Appearing as a guest on the Oklahoma City-area television station KOCO, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Robert Redfield told Oklahomans that the state's continued increase in COVID-19 infections and deaths is not an inevitability. 

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Child safety advocates and first responders held a mock rescue of a child locked in a hot car in an attempt to raise awareness about the dangers of heat stroke inside vehicles.

"Last year, at least 52 children across the United States died from heatstroke caused by being left or trapped in a vehicle," said Beth Washington, coordinator of Safe Kids Tulsa Area, a group with a mission to prevent unintentional child injuries.

"Drivers need to understand that a vehicle is not a babysitter, but it can quicky become an oven," Washington said.

Tuesday's top stories:

  • Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah Gist is recommending the district not offer any in-person learning to start the school year, due to advice from public health experts citing Tulsa's troubling COVID-19 infection rates.
  • After becoming the first governor in the country known to have contracted COVID-19, Gov. Kevin Stitt says he's been cleared to return to the Capitol.

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