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Sonoma County names Dr. Sundari Mase as public health officer amid coronavirus emergency

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The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday appointed Dr. Sundari Mase to the position of public health officer, handing her a role she has been filling on an interim base for the past two weeks as the county’s point person on the coronavirus pandemic.

She replaced Dr. Celeste Philip, who left on March 16 to work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta as deputy director for non-infectious diseases, a job she said she accepted earlier this year.

The board also approved salary increases for top county health officials, including Mase, who has experience with the World Health Organization and the CDC, and will earn $263,316 per year. The board eschewed the typical appointment and national search process, citing the emergency appointment provision of the county’s hiring code.

The public health officer is charged with protecting and promoting public health, and at no time in recent memory has that role been thrust into the forefront of county policy more than now.

By the time Mase took over March 10, Philip had already declared a public health emergency as the county grappled with two active coronavirus cases. Mase moved quickly to issue her first order March 11, prohibiting gatherings of 250 or more people. A week later, on March 17, she took the unprecedented step to ban all but the most essential business and travel through a shelter-in-place order.

In addition to her former roles at the CDC and WHO, Mase was previously the deputy health officer for Santa Clara County, and most recently has served as a consultant specializing in tuberculosis.

When she was initially appointed to the interim role, it was as a consultant with a six-month contract and pay set at $200,000. The board’s action Tuesday converts Mase to an employee “effective immediately.”

Other positions slated for raises were the county’s deputy public health officer and behavioral health medical director.

You can reach Staff Writer Tyler Silvy at 707-526-8667 or at tyler.silvy@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @tylersilvy.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story misstated the annual salary for Dr. Sundari Mase.

For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

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