Texans aren't taking coronavirus seriously enough, Texas Rangers' Shin-Soo Choo warns

©Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Smiley N. Pool/Dallas Morning News/TNS

Shin-Soo Choo left his house Tuesday night, only the second time he has ventured out since returning from Texas Rangers spring training more than two weeks ago.

He is taking the CDC guidelines on the coronavirus pandemic seriously, as well as recommendations from President Trump, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the stay at home order issued by Tarrant County.

But he and the family needed some things from the grocery store, so out he went.

Choo couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

People were out and about. Social distancing wasn’t being observed, which likely meant hands weren’t being washed and the risk that coronavirus was being passed from friend to friend and neighbor to neighbor was heightened.

He needed to say something.

This isn’t another celebrity’s rehearsed spiel on social media. Choo doesn’t even have Twitter or Instagram accounts.

However, he has an appeal to make based on what he has learned about what is happening in his native South Korea and heard from his mother, father and brother who live there.

If life is going to return to normal, people need to be all-in on staying in.

“Everybody has a different job, and everybody wants to be there,” Choo said. “Even my kids, before they didn’t want to go to school and now they want to go. Everybody was complaining about their jobs, but now they are missing their jobs.”

Choo, 37, is entering the final year of his seven-year, $130 million contract with the Rangers and is expected to be atop their lineup as the designated hitter and occasional corner outfielder.

He, his wife and three children live in Southlake, and they aren’t leaving the area whether Choo retires after this season or plays another season for the Rangers or for another MLB team.

Choo wants to return to baseball as soon as possible. He wants people who are furloughed from their jobs or who have lost their jobs to be able to work again and to support their families.

But he has also seen the numbers and heard the scientists. Confirmed cases of the coronavirus continue to rise just about everywhere.

“Why is the United States getting worse? Because people are not taking it seriously,” he said. “People are not wearing masks. People are going outside.

“I understand. I’m sick of this, staying in my house. This is my third week. Honestly, I’ve got everything in my house, but still I’m tired of it.

“I know it’s hard to do, but we have to minimize the social stuff. Everybody has to be on the same page and do the same thing. We have to treat this like a really big deal.”

What he saw on his way to the grocery store, and what he has heard from friends in other parts of the Fort Worth-area and throughout the Metroplex, made him question how seriously people are taking the pandemic.

“There were people walking and talking to people with no masks on,” he said. “People are playing in the park. Kids are playing around in the park. But why is a lot of the country staying home? Something is going on.

“So, I want to say something: If we want it back to a normal life, everyone has to stay home.”

Young adults might have the virus but feel OK after a few days, Choo said, but they might have already spread it to others. The largest demographic most seriously affected by coronavirus — and it’s not even close — is those 65 and older.

As of Friday in Italy, the average age of a person who had died from coronavirus after a positive test was 78.

One country that has been hailed as an exception is Choo’s homeland. South Korea has flattened the curve of increasing coronavirus cases and is easing restrictions, but only after Koreans spent a month or more under, in effect, a quarantine.

Choo is from Busan, the second most populous city in South Korea behind Seoul and home to one of the busiest ports in the world.

The shoreline of the Yellow Sea in western South Korea is only 435 miles from the shoreline in eastern China, and Busan is only 858 miles from Wuhan, China, where coronavirus originated. That’s roughly same distance as Globe Life Field to Surprise, Ariz., where the Rangers hold spring training.

Nevertheless, things are slowly returning to normal in South Korea.

“You know why Korea is so good right now?” Choo said. “Because everybody is together and like, ‘OK, this is serious. I have the virus right now, I have to stay home. I don’t want to affect other people.’ My parents stayed home a month.”

And it worked. What Choo is seeing here in the States, on the other hand, needs improvement.

“We have to be careful,” he said. “I know it’s hard. It’s not easy to do. But you have to do it.”

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©2020 Fort Worth Star-Telegram