Banner Health is banking on mask mandates and continued social distancing as a way to slow the spread of COVID-19, and says rolling back mandates could reverse the state's progress against the virus.
Banner, the state's largest health care group with hospitals and medical practices in many Valley cities, says evidence shows masks are working in the region and state.
Banner Health President and CEO Peter Fine said in a statement the region's health care community has been helped by residents doing their part to help slow the spread by wearing masks and socially distancing.
"For their sake, and everyone's sake, we must stay the course on masking and distancing for the foreseeable future," he said.
The statement came two days after the city of Scottsdale rescinded its mask-wearing requirement, becoming the first Valley city that adopted such a mandate to repeal it.
Scottsdale residents and other cities are still bound by Maricopa County's mask mandate.
Local communities undertook mask requirements this summer after Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey lifted a ban on cities doing so. The governor has declined to issue a statewide mask mandate.
City and county requirements came as Arizona's COVID-19 case numbers rose from late May into early July. Those numbers have declined since then, and more businesses have begun opening and many schools have begun in-person learning.
Banner officials said they cared for nearly 50% of the state's COVID-19 patients, and the organization has begun to see fewer hospitalizations. But it still sees the virus is spreading, particularly among younger people.
Arizona has seen 215,852 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began this spring with 5,559 deaths, according the Arizona Department of Health Services as of Thursday, Sept. 24.