Dr. Lisa Hernandez wearing a mask she made herself at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Credit: City of Berkeley

Dr. Lisa Hernandez, who served as Berkeley’s health officer through the COVID-19 pandemic, will leave the city for a Santa Cruz County position in July.

Hernandez confirmed the news, first announced by the Santa Cruz County Public Health Department.

“It has been a true honor and privilege to work for the residents of the City of Berkeley and I will miss the community and its pro-public health science-based culture,” Hernandez wrote in an email.

Hernandez will begin her job as Santa Cruz County Health Officer on July 5. Berkeley spokesperson Matthai Chakko didn’t confirm the date of Hernandez’s last work day in the city, but said the job application for her position is posted online, with a salary range of $271,564.80 to $308,484.80. According to the Transparent California database, Hernandez’s pay and benefits amounted to $437,093.35 in 2022, with base pay at about $300,000.

Hernandez’s departure comes amid a citywide staffing shortage affecting multiple departments.

Hernandez said Berkeley officials asked her not to provide an exit interview to Berkeleyside.

“We are very grateful for Dr. Hernandez’s thoughtful, smart, data-driven leadership as well as her collaboration with agencies across the region,” Chakko said in a statement.

From the first days of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, Hernandez played a crucial role in determining the city’s approach to lockdowns, vaccine distribution, mask mandates, school openings and closings, health guidance and collaborating with a coalition of Bay Area governments on joint guidance and mandates.

Because Berkeley has its own health department — separate from Alameda County — Hernandez also oversaw the tracking of city-specific data on new online dashboards. Along with Lisa Warhuus, director of health, housing and community services, Hernandez pushed for equity-based approaches to the pandemic by prioritizing marginalized populations for resources.

Throughout the pandemic, Berkeley maintained case and death rates lower than surrounding cities and higher vaccination rates.

Hernandez is returning to Santa Cruz County after working there as the health officer from 2013 to 2016. She’s worked in public health for 25 years and held positions in Santa Clara and Monterey counties.

Supriya Yelimeli is a housing and homelessness reporter for Berkeleyside and joined the staff in May 2020 after contributing reporting since 2018 as a freelance writer. Yelimeli grew up in Fremont and...