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

Monday's top stories:

  • Governor Stitt is defending his plan to reopen the state's economy even as cases of coronavirus in Oklahoma continue to rise.
  • Oklahoma now has confirmed 3,253 cases of COVID-19, with 195 deaths.
  • Oklahoma Commerce Secretary Sean Kouplen has shared information about "Phase Three" of Governor Stitt's reopen plan. Summer camps and sports camps would be allowed to open, and social distancing recommendations may be relaxed.

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt responded Friday to charges leveled by Republican leaders in the state legislature that recent gaming compacts signed between the state and two tribal governments were unlawful.

Oklahoma State Department of Health

The confirmed number of cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has reached 3,193 Oklahomans, according to Saturday data released by the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

The state reported 72 new cases,  a day-over-day increase of 2.3%. There were also six additional deaths, a 3.2% day-over-day increase, bringing the total number of deaths in the state to 194.

Chris Polansky / KWGS

His hand seemingly forced by Governor Kevin Stitt's easing of restrictions on business closures implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum announced reluctantly on Friday that Tulsa's "Safer At Home" order will expire on Thursday, April 30th. 

Matt Trotter / KWGS

Governor Kevin Stitt's plans to begin opening businesses like salons and restaurants does not include any direction for when to reopen the Oklahoma State Capitol.

The Capitol has been closed to the public since mid-March, when a legislative staffer tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Friday's top stories:

  • Governor Kevin Stitt's plan to begin reopening Oklahoma's economy begins today, with non-essential businesses like nail salons and barber shops allowed to reopen. The head of the Oklahoma State Medical Association doesn't think it's a great idea.
  • The known death toll from COVID-19 in Oklahoma is now 179, with 3,017 confirmed cases.
  • The head of the Oklahoma State Department of Education says the state's reopening does not apply to schools, which will remain closed. 

Governor Kevin Stitt Facebook page

The president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association said Thursday that he is not confident that Governor Kevin Stitt's plan to begin reopening the state's economy on April 24th is a good idea.

Chris Polansky

While Oklahoma prepares to reopen certain businesses following mandated closures meant to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, the head of the Oklahoma State Department of Education said on Thursday that students, parents and teachers shouldn't take that to mean schools will be reopening any time soon.

"It is not to pertain to the reopening of schools," State Superintendent of Instruction Joy Hofmeister said of Governor Kevin Stitt's announcement that parts of Oklahoma's economy will begin to reopen on April 24th. 

Thursday's top stories:

  • Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt says the state is ready to start easing and lifting restrictions implemented to combat the spread of COVID-19. Some businesses will open as soon as this week.
  • Oklahoma is up to 2,894 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 170 deaths.
  • Tulsa Mayor GT Bynum presented his budget proposal for fiscal year 2021, saying he hopes to maintain current levels of city services despite a $13 million projected decline in sales tax revenue.

Erin Faulkenberry, CLEET (A1205 cohort)

Like most institutions around the country, Oklahoma's Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training, or CLEET, was forced to scale back in-person instruction at its academy in Ada due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

Now, according to executive director Jesus "Eddie" Campa, the agency is ready to slowly begin welcoming cadets back.

"We are allowed to bring them back to the facility, but we want to do that at a slow pace," Campa said at a video conference meeting of the councilmembers on Wednesday. "There's going to be very minimal contact and very minimal exposure."

County Commissioner Karen Keith

The U.S. Commerce Department announced Tuesday a $3 million dollar award to Tulsa County for improvements to the Arkansas River levee system.

The grant is directed through the department's Economic Development Administration, or EDA, and is intented "to improve critical infrastructure needed to protect businesses from flood damage," according to a press release from a Commerce Department spokesperson.

Tulsa County Commissioner Karen Keith said the money will help protect neighborhoods from the type of flooding devastated in last spring's storms.

Wednesday's top stories:

  • Oklahoma is one of the worst states in the nation in COVID-19 testing capacity, according to the White House coronavirus task force.
  • Oklahoma is up to 2,807 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 164 confirmed deaths.
  • Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt announced agreements with some Indian tribes regarding gaming compacts, but Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said the governor doesn't have the legal authority.

File Photo-OU

Oil Market Turmoil Likely To Have Economic Repercussions On Both State And Local Levels

Former Tulsa mayor Dewey F. Bartlett Jr. has seen a lot over his decades in the oil and gas industry, but he said he's never seen anything like this week's market turmoil, and never thought he would.

"Never," Bartlett said. "Not to this degree, and not this quickly. Not even close."

"It's as bad as it seems."

Tahlequah Area Habitat for Humanity

When Tahlequah Area Habitat For Humanity raised the first walls of its latest house on March 7th, executive director Linda Cheatham expected it to be finished by May. 

Then, the coronavirus pandemic hit.

"We had to stop building in the middle," Cheatham said, adding that when they shut down work, the house had four walls and a roof, but no doors, windows, or siding. The house, she said, had been intended for a Cherokee Nation citizen who is unable to work due to a disability and is considered "very low income." 

Tuesday's top stories:

  • Oklahoma is up to 2,680 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 143 deaths.
  • The Oklahoma State Board of Equalization made official on Monday a $416.9 million revenue shortfall this fiscal year.
  • Nearly two dozen business, nonprofit and health leaders will help plan the reopening of Tulsa’s economy after the COVID-19 threat begins to decline.

Google Street View

The former site of Tulsa County's Juvenile Justice Center has been repurposed and reopened as a shelter for those experiencing homelessness amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

County Commissioner Karen Keith said 55 men are the first clients to stay in the facility beginning Monday. Tulsa Transit buses are being used to bring the men to the shelter, operated by homeless nonprofits including the Salvation Army and the Tulsa Day Center and funded through a public-private partnership including the City of Tulsa.

Tulsa County on Twitter

Tulsa County Engineer Alex Mills said on Monday that the slate of major road projects planned for summer will almost certainly be reduced as a result of the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

"Diesel tax, gasoline tax, gross production tax — that is the bulk of our funding," Mills said. "The numbers from March showed a pretty significant drop."

Mills said that the numbers for April are likely to be even more significant.

Friday's top stories:

  • Oklahoma is up to 2,599 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 140 deaths.
  • Forecasters see a bleak outlook for Oklahoma's shale oil producers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. West Texas Intermediate crude hit its lowest price in over 20 years on Monday morning.
  • Governor Kevin Stitt has set a June 30th election date for voters to decide whether or not to expand the state's Medicaid program.

Governor Stitt Facebook page

Speaking alongside his COVID-19 task force outside INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center Portland in Oklahoma City, Governor Kevin Stitt presented more details on how the state will begin its attempt to reopen its economy.

"I know how badly many of you want to get back to normal, get back to a normal way of life," Stitt said.

"Our cases are trending down and our curve is flattening," Stitt said. "That is great news." But Stitt was also careful to add that there is still a chance that things could take a turn. 

 

Friday's top stories:

  • Oklahoma is up to 2,357 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 131 deaths.
  • Oklahoma's attorney general is anticipating lawsuits arising from Governor Stitt's executive orders to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Tulsa Community College says it will receive nearly $8 million from the federal government. It's just not sure when.

Tulsa County Sheriff's Office

A detention officer at the Tulsa County Jail died Wednesday after suffering a "medical episode" unrelated to COVID-19, according to a Thursday statement from the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office.

Officer John Okafor had worked for the sheriff's office since 2007, according to the statement.

"Despite the life saving efforts of his coworkers & paramedics , he passed away at the hospital," the statement says. "Please keep his family and coworkers in your prayers."

tulsacc.edu

The U.S. Department of Education announced $14 billion in grants to colleges and universities across the country, including nearly $8 million for Tulsa Community College. According to college administrators, though, TCC is unsure when the funding will arrive — or exactly how it can be used.

"There is no set date for when it will be released," TCC general counsel Mackenzie Wilfong said at a virtual meeting of the college's Board of Regents on Thursday. "We are waiting with anticipation on being provided more guidance."

Thursday's top stories:

  • Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and his team are working on plans to reopen the state.
  • Oklahoma is up to 2,263 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 123 deaths.
  • The Commanding General of Fort Sill emphasized the Army post's commitment to mitigating the spread of the novel coronavirus.

From Flickr, licensed uncer CC BY 2.0.

Governor Kevin Stitt's proposal to retool Oklahoma's Medicaid system closed its 30-day public input period on Wednesday, but some Oklahomans say the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic made that timeframe inadequate for such a consequential policy change.

US Army Fort Sill Facebook page

Speaking to about a thousand viewers tuned into a Facebook Live stream on Tuesday, Fort Sill Commanding General Kenneth L. Kamper said that the relative flatness of the "curve" of infections on the Army post did not mean the installation was out of the woods.

"While we look flat at Fort Sill," Kamper said, "my assessment of that is we’re still dealing with small numbers. And I think we’re very much at risk to COVID, still."

From Flickr, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Oklahoma Senator James Lankford and the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission's executive director, Robin Roberson, hosted a telephone town hall on Tuesday to answer constituent questions regarding relief programs to address the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Introducing Roberson, Lankford said "she handles and coordinates unemployment insurance for our state."

From Flicker, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Tulsa County will receive nearly one million dollars in federal money to aid in recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

The $861,000 block grant from the department of Housing and Urban Development will likely become available within 30 days, according to Claudia Brierre of the Indian Nations Council of Governments, or INCOG, which will administer the funding for Tulsa County. 

"It's to respond and prepare for and address the needs that were created by the virus," Brierre said. 

Brierre said that it hasn't been determined how exactly the money will be spent.

KWGS News File Photo

At a special meeting of the Tulsa Public School Board of Education on Friday, administrators and board members were unanimous in approving six recommendations aimed at helping the district and its students deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We’re spending lots of time with our school leaders to ensure that our students feel engaged, loved, connected with, and prepared to move into next year," said Deputy Superintendent Paula Shannon.

Tony Webster on Flickr, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

According to Ray Hoyt of the Tulsa Regional Chamber, more than 9 million visitors came to Tulsa in 2018, spending over a billion dollars.

"Our job," Hoyt said on a Thursday conference call to the Chamber's members, "is to get those visitors back."

With the city's "Safer at Home" order shuttering restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues, and the national economy stalled, Tulsa's tourism economy is on pause.

While most of us canceled travel plans and hunkered down, Chris Polansky bought a van, packed up his belongs and his trusty dog, Trout, and drove half-way across the country to become our new Morning Edition Host and News Reporter.  In healthier times, we would have thrown a little get-together so you could meet him.  In lieu of that, we stayed WAY far away and asked our newest staff member a few questions:

Public Radio Tulsa:  Tell us a little about yourself, Chris.

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