‘There is no going out’: Evanston man stranded in China since December

Coronavirus

EVANSTON, Ill. — An Evanston husband and wife haven’t been home since December after making their annual trip to China.

WGN recently checked in with Kurt Mitenbuler after nearly eight weeks of quarantine about 300 miles west of Wuhan — where COVID-19 originated.

Mitenbuler said he’s one of the luckier ones. He’s getting regular meals and is generally pretty relaxed about his extended stay in China.

“I knew a month ago that nobody was paying attention in America,” he said.

Mitenbuler has said it has gotten worse in the area he’s in since he started his quarantine.

“There is a gate. Initially we could go out a little to the grocery store, go for a walk, down by the river,” Mitenbuler said. “Like people just walking in circles in the parking lot. That’s our exercise.”

His village, with a population pushing 1,000,000, is on total lockdown in the Hubei Province.

“There is no going out,” Mitenbuler said. “If you decide to push it, the blue light specials would show up and you would be taken to jail.”

Over loudspeakers, the Chinese government has been blaring messages in the streets to stay home, avoid all contact with others and don’t talk to people.

Indoors, fog machines are blowing disinfectants.

“We’re lucky,” Mitenbuler said. “There are people stranded, sleeping under bridges.”

These days, he is watching developments in the U.S. carefully. As numbers in China begin to improve as COVID-19 takes hold in the U.S., Mitenbuler and his wife, who was born in China, are discussing their next move.

“Are we sure we want to go back right now? Quite honestly I’m not sure,” Mitenbuler said. “I think I’m safer in Enshi than I am in America because nobody seems to be paying attention to anything there.”

Mitenbuler said cabin fever doesn’t begin to describe what they are going through. The things they miss the most are the lakefront, walking down a street and people-watching at the Art Institute.

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