Family caught in coronavirus crisis

Chris and Diana Kirchenbauer pose with their children, Eric, 8, and Tia, 6. Chris has been unable to travel to China’s Wuhan region to pick up his wife and children amid an outbreak of a deadly, newly discovered coronavirus that has placed nearly 60 million people in quarantine. The Kirchenbauers live in Najing, China.

ANDERSON – An Anderson native living in Nanjing, China, has been denied a special exemption to travel six hours to the Wuhan region to pick up his wife and children amid an outbreak of a deadly, newly discovered coronavirus that has placed nearly 40 million people in quarantine, his father said.

Anderson resident Harry Kirchenbauer said his son, Chris Kirchenbauer, told him and other family members in emails that his wife and two children recently had to change travel plans to Wuhan, the epicenter of the epidemic, before going on to Zhuhai and Macao. Diana Kirchenbauer’s family lives in the Wuhan area, and she went there to celebrate the Chinese New Year with them.

Chris Kirchenbauer did not plan to go on the trip because of a recent rotator cuff surgery from which he is recuperating.

“The virus situation has changed everything,” Harry Kirchenbauer said. “Travel in and out of Wuhan is blocked.”

A native of Anderson and a graduate of Lapel Jr.-Sr. High School, Chris Kirchenbauer has lived in China, where he works for a German automotive parts company, for more than a decade. He also worked within the automotive industry in Anderson before moving to China, his father said.

“Hospitals are overwhelmed,” Chris Kirchenbauer wrote in one of the emails. Diana Kirchenbauer, a native of China, is working on getting more medical supplies shipped to Wuhan, he added.

The Kirchenbauers, who live on the 17th and 18th floors of a high-rise in Nanjing, about 380 miles northeast of Wuhan, have a son, Eric, 8, and a daughter, Tia, 6.

Harry Kirchenbauer said he went to Wuhan, a city with a population of about 11 million, about 10 years ago when Chris and Diana married at the St. Joseph Catholic Church there.

“We were watched a lot because we were different,” he said.

Harry Kirchenbauer talks to his son and grandchildren at least once a month, usually over Skype. He said naturally, he is concerned about the health and welfare of his family.

“We’re traumatized over here,” he said.

Follow Rebecca R. Bibbs on Twitter at @RebeccaB_THB, or call 765-640-4883.

Follow Rebecca R. Bibbs on Twitter at @RebeccaB_THB, or call 765-640-4883.

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