“Looks like the refs are going to let them play.”

When you hear announcers utter that phrase near the end of a sporting event, you know one thing is certain: the referees are either too intimidated or frightened to continue enforcing the rules.

But at least when refs swallow their whistles, the worst that can happen is that a contest’s outcome might be determined by unchecked thuggery or deception.

However, when elected officials decide to do the same, the results can be far more devastating.

Which is why Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recent decision to stop doing his job regarding an ongoing pandemic is hard to fathom.

Last week, the nation’s highest court ruled that healthcare workers must be vaccinated. It’s not terribly hard to see why. COVID-19 has been linked to nearly 900,000 U.S. deaths so far. It’s easily transmissible. Vaccines and masks have been proven effective in minimizing COVID-19’s impact and spread. Healthcare workers literally try to help keep people healthy for a living.

Still, DeSantis announced Florida won’t enforce the highest court’s ruling. No, I am not making this up.

At the very least, it would appear to be an odd legal position from a man who has a law degree from Harvard and is a member of the self-proclaimed party of law and order. But while his calculation might seem dubious from a healthcare perspective, it has more than a little political merit.

After all, many people remain opposed to any and all COVID-related restrictions. Aligning with such voters might help him get re-elected. It might even help him capture the White House. So there’s that.

Still, here’s the second-most troubling thing about his announcement: He’s essentially claiming that he can judge which laws are valid. In a nation where the rule of law is supposed to reign, shouldn’t they all be valid?

Here’s the most troubling thing about his announcement: If he follows through — and it appears very likely he will — avoidable staff and resident deaths will follow. By the hundreds, perhaps the thousands.

This is one time when a governor’s decision to ignore the Supreme Court will come at a high cost. For others, that is.

John O’Connor is editorial director of McKnight’s Senior Living and its sister media brands, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, which focuses on skilled nursing, and McKnight’s Home Care.