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:

• The Oklahoma legislature advanced a piece of anti-trans legislation meant to ban some trans athletes from participating in athletics at schools and universities.

• The Tulsa Health Department says they're prepared to vaccinate out-of-staters, as the state of Oklahoma announced non-residents are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in Oklahoma effective Thursday.

Oklahoma Watch

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A union complaint about whether an Oklahoma meatpacking plant is doing enough to protect workers from the coronavirus could test the industry’s response to the pandemic because Seaboard Foods says it is following recommendations from the government and trade groups. 

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

With the Oklahoma State Department of Health announcing Wednesday that non-Oklahomans are now eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines through the state system, the Tulsa Health Department said Thursday they're up to the job.

"We are happy to be administering the vaccine, really, to anybody who wants it, whether they are Oklahoma residents or those that are residents of another state but for some reason are in Oklahoma," said Ellen Niemitalo, THD clinical services manager.

"We're just excited to be able to administer the vaccine to anyone who is wanting it," she said.

Thursday's top stories:

• State lawmakers have pushed more restrictions on abortion care closer to Gov. Kevin Stitt's desk.

• Democrats are demanding an apology from a Republican state rep who said the fight to illegalize abortion is more important than the fight to end slavery and compared abortion to the Holocaust.

Healthier Oklahoma Coalition

Add "eyesight" to the list of things possibly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Jean Hausheer, a Lawton ophthalmologist and past-president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, said on a Tuesday Zoom press conference hosted by the Healthier Oklahoma Coalition that a recent paper in the American Journal of Ophthalmology looked at a potential link between the increase in screen time and decrease in outdoor activity in kids due to the switch to remote learning and myopia (nearsightedness).

Tulsa Health Department

Oklahoma's COVID-19 case reporting and test positivity rate may not accurately reflect the current state of the pandemic due to a decline in the number of tests being performed, a leading expert said Wednesday.

"Our testing is coming down significantly," Dr. Jennifer Clark said during a weekly virtual presentation given as part of the OSU Project ECHO initiative, for which she serves as subject matter expert.

Wednesday's top stories:

• Oklahomans should expect to see a spike in COVID-19 cases reported by the state health department Wednesday, but officials say it's due to a reporting error.

• Local elections occurred across Oklahoma yesterday. Locally, Broken Arrow Mayor Craig Thurmond lost his seat on the city council and Tulsa Public Schools board member Jennettie Marshall retained hers by just 15 votes.

City of Broken Arrow

Municipal and school board elections were held Tuesday across much of Oklahoma, with several Green Country contests decided.

Incumbent Broken Arrow Mayor Craig Thurmond lost his reelection bid for his seat on the Broken Arrow City Council. Challenger Lisa Ford, an employee of the Broken Arrow Police Department, won the Ward 2 seat with 4,811 votes to Thurmond's 3,335.

Broken Arrow Councilor Debra Wimpee held off two challengers to retain her Ward 1 seat. She finished with 3,278 votes, ahead of Jonathan Kelly (2,510) and Cathy Smythe (2,363). 

The Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education on Monday unanimously approved a resolution scheduling a June 8th election for voters to decide on a five-year, $414 million bond proposal.

Tuesday's top stories:

• A two-year, $31 million rehabilitation projected is expected to begin this summer on the east leg of the Inner Dispersal Loop.

• ODOT is asking Oklahomans to use caution while driving through work zones as April marks Work Zone Safety Month. Nearly 1,400 injuries and 83 fatalities have been caused by crashes in Oklahoma work zones over the last five years.

• TSET is funding a new rural medicine residency at OSU.

Ad Council / COVID Collaborative

A new national PSA campaign is targeting communities like Republicans and white evangelicals, who have lower confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines. OU Health chief of infectious diseases Dr. Douglas Drevets spoke with Public Radio Tulsa's Chris Polansky about the "It's Up To You" campaign.

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PUBLIC RADIO TULSA: I was hoping you could start by just telling me a little bit about the campaign and what makes it important for Oklahoma.

Cherokee Nation

Cherokee Nation on Thursday opened a new Tahlequah facility for its ONE FIRE Victims Services program, corresponding with the beginning of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

"Our move to our new facility is going to be great for us," said interim director Shawna Duch. "We've got a more secure location, we've got a bigger location, we've got an office that looks like home. It's going to be comfortable for a survivor to come in and get services here."

Monday's top stories:

• The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission presented a $200,000 donation to Greenwood's Historic Vernon AME Church on Saturday.

• The pandemic will have "long-lasting ramifications" for higher education in Oklahoma, auditors say.

Community Health Connection

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced just under $64 million in funding will be divided and awarded to 21 community health centers in Oklahoma as part of President Biden and congressional Democrats' American Rescue Plan COVID-19 relief package.

Instagram / Greenwood Art Project

A museum opening in June as an initiative of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission will feature Greenwood-inspired art created by and for children.

The Tulsa Children's Museum of Art will open on the OSU - Tulsa campus on June 1 with an exhibition called "Greenwood, Black Wall Street, and the 1921 Race Massacre: Through the Eyes of Children," according to director Dr. Courtney Skipper.

US Army Ft. Sill

The commanding general of the U.S. Army's Fort Sill said Thursday an investigation is underway into allegations of sexual assault made by a soldier against multiple members of training cadre.

Maj. Gen. Kenneth Kamper told reporters at a press briefing that a soldier assigned to the Comanche County installation came forward Saturday to report the assault, and the incident was immediately referred to law enforcement and the Army's criminal investigation division, or CID.

The Tulsa Health Department announced Wednesday that individuals seeking to be vaccinated against COVID-19 now have three additional locations to choose from.

The department's James O. Goodwin Health Center, Central Regional Health Center and North Regional Health and Wellness Center are all now taking appointments via the state's vaccinate.oklahoma.gov portal, with vaccinations beginning there on Monday.

Facebook / Cancer Treatment Centers of America (Tulsa)

The Cancer Treatment Center of America hospital in Tulsa announced Wednesday it will permanently close by June 1st. 

"Despite working tirelessly to overcome significant patient access and insurance limitations that inexplicably restrict patient care options and prevent patient choice in this market, CTCA Tulsa will close operations as of June 1, 2021," the hospital said in a news release.

Thursday's top stories:

• Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday signed two bills with major ramifications for public school districts in Oklahoma.

• Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.) says "exorbitant" unemployment benefits are harming America's children.

Healthier Oklahoma Coalition

While Oklahoma appears to be trending well in terms of COVID-19 infection and vaccination rates, public health experts and officials are warning that things could change without vigilance.

"Listen, everyone -- the pandemic is not over yet," said Dr. Aaron Wendelboe, an epidemiologist and professor at the OU Health Sciences Center who formerly served as Oklahoma's state epidemiologist, on a Tuesday press briefing held virtually by the Healthier Oklahoma Coalition. "We have not dropped to levels of transmission that are sustainable, that we can control."

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

Republican Rep. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma's first congressional district says that generous, pandemic-inspired unemployment benefits are harming American children.

"My childhood was marred by dependence on government aid that motivated my stepdad to stay at home rather than work," Hern said, appearing virtually at a hearing of the House Worker and Family Support Subcommittee on Wednesday, March 24. "My siblings and I bore that burden."

Wednesday's top stories:

• Education officials and House Democrats are slamming a recent 4-3 vote of the State Board of Education they say is designed to enrich corporate executives at the expense of public schools and students.

• Gov. Kevin Stitt announced this week that his administration will open an office in Washington, D.C., led by a new hire who will receive a $120,000 annual salary.

• The Oklahoma Blood Institute is calling on blood donors to give, noting it's safe to donate blood after receiving any of the currently available COVID-19 vaccines.

Oklahoma House Democrats

Democrats in the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Monday slammed several recent education policy proposals and actions they say will have negative impacts on the state's public school students.

"Those who have no background nor experience in education are making decisions in a vacuum," said teacher-turned-lawmaker Rep. Melissa Provenzano (D-Tulsa) during a Capitol press conference. "We've got legislators in this building openly calling for the disruption of public schools. These are our children we are talking about disrupting here."

Twitter / Cyndi Munson

The Oklahoma House on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution condemning hate crimes, hateful rhetoric and violence against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.

House Resolution 1015 was authored by Asian American Rep. Cyndi Munson, an Oklahoma City Democrat.

Tuesday's top stories:

• Gov. Kevin Stitt received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 at a Capitol press conference Monday, saying he hopes it inspires more Oklahomans to get theirs.

• The Biden administration's extension of the CDC eviction moratorium could benefit thousands of Tulsa County renters in danger of losing their homes.

OU Health Physicians

With COVID-19 vaccinations now open to all Oklahomans 16 and older, public health experts say doctors will play a vital role in overcoming remaining hesitancy among patients. 

"Every survey we do, the most trusted individual is a physician or their medical provider," said Mendy Spohn, administrative director for the Oklahoma State Department of Health's District 8, which covers parts of southern Oklahoma. 

Rental Realities

The Biden administration announced Monday morning that the moratorium on evictions implemented to protect renters in danger of becoming unhoused during the COVID-19 pandemic has been extended through the end of June. 

"The moratorium that was scheduled to expire on March 31, 2021 is now extended through June 30, 2021," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.

Tuesday's top stories:

• All Oklahomans 16 and up are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine through the state of Oklahoma's vaccinate.oklahoma.gov portal.

• Police in Oklahoma City shot and killed a detainee at the Oklahoma County Jail who allegedly held a corrections officer hostage. 

Oklahoma House of Representatives

Members of Oklahoma's Legislative Black Caucus this week questioned Republican House leaders' decision not to hear several police reform bills this session.

Friday's top stories:

• The state health department failed to adequately collect COVID-19 contact tracing data in the second half of last year, an oversight entity found.

• Tulsa Public Schools was recognized by the Biden administration, one of four districts spotlighted during the U.S. Department of Education's "National Safe Schools Reopening Summit."

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