A sharp increase in coronavirus cases, particularly in states where Republican governors have championed “freedom” over vigilance, underscores why the public must follow the experts’ advice and stop listening to ignorant fools. Editorially, we try to avoid using such strong words, but when a deadly pandemic is spreading at record levels, and elected leaders encourage their followers to party, rally, dine and shop with reckless abandon, they are taunting death and promoting ignorance.

The latest numbers are a stark wake-up call: In Florida Wednesday, the state shattered its own record with 5,508 new coronavirus cases in a single day. Texas registered a record-breaking 5,489 new cases in a single day on Tuesday, while California’s daily toll peaked at more than 7,000. (South Carolina broke its own record Saturday with nearly 1,600 cases.)

Missouri also broke its own daily record Tuesday with 434 new cases. By the state’s own data, no one can argue that Missouri under Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s leadership has even slightly flattened the curve. Rather, the number of cumulative cases has doubled since Parson ended a statewide shutdown order in early May. Throwing caution to the wind, Parson attended an event Tuesday to mark a global consulting firm’s move to St. Louis yet opted not to set an example by wearing a mask. Others on stage, including Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, did. At a separate appearance, Parson lashed out at a reporter for asking him if he felt personally responsible for the infection surge after having lifted statewide shutdown orders.

Despite the infection surge, President Donald Trump insisted on holding a campaign rally Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he stated that reduced testing would lead to lower coronavirus numbers. White House aides, clearly worried that the president risked looking woefully ignorant, spent the next two days insisting that he was just kidding.

“I don’t kid,” Trump told reporters Tuesday. Doubling down, he acknowledged in a tweet that infections are rising but added, “With smaller testing we would show fewer cases!”

The sharp increase is not the result of expanded testing, experts say, but rather because Americans are rejecting masks, relaxing precautions and boosting their exposure.

Trump held another rally in Arizona Tuesday, where it appeared that fewer than one in 10 attendees wore masks while standing shoulder-to-shoulder inside an arena. Neither Trump nor any state or federal officials around him wore masks.

Meanwhile, his top pandemic advisers were testifying on Capitol Hill, where they renewed their oft-stated warnings that the country remains in serious danger. Asked about the importance of leaders wearing face masks, Dr. Anthony Fauci refused to call out the president directly but said he personally wears a mask, “not only because I want to protect others and to protect myself, but also to set an example.”

The fight against coronavirus ignorance isn’t a liberal-versus-conservative thing. It’s just common sense.

— The St. Louis Post-Dispatch