As the coronavirus pandemic entered its second calendar year in 2021, Orange County leaders and public health officials continued to stay afloat of changing protocols as state-wide mandates on wearing inner masks came and went, and as schools and events returned to in-person formats.
As the development of a COVID-19 vaccine raised hopes for a light at the end of the tunnel, a rising tide of opposition hampered Orange County’s original goal of achieving collective immunity by Day of independence.
Today, with just over 71% of residents fully vaccinated and the more formidable and transmissible Delta and Omicron variants looming on the horizon, the dream of a return to pre-pandemic life remains elusive.
As much as the coronavirus dominated the headlines, coastal Orange County hosted a slew of notable events in 2021. Here are some of the top stories from the Daily Pilot’s coverage area:
Oil spill off the coast of Huntington Beach spurs statewide response
When news of an Oct. 1 pipeline rupture about 4.5 miles off the coast of Orange County at an offshore oil processing facility became public, officials at local levels of county and state have worked together to help protect local beaches and wildlife.
As the US Coast Guard and many agencies investigated the cause of the spill, affected cities declared local emergencies and closed beaches and maritime commerce while a massive cleanup effort was staged.
Meanwhile, lawmakers moved quickly in a united call to end offshore drilling in federal waters, where the spill occurred. County Supervisor Katrina Foley joined State Senator Dave Min (D-Irvine), State MP Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach) and Senator from the ‘State Tom Umberg (D-Orange) in a call to action.
“We see something like this happen every five to ten years,” Min told Huntington Beach City Council on Oct. 4. “This is horrible for our beaches, our environment and our marine ecosystems, and it has to stop.”
Earlier this week, authorities announced coast clean-up efforts were over.
Local participants in the Jan.6 attack on the U.S. Capitol targeted by the FBI
Less than a week after the start of the new year, Americans watched in astonishment and horror as rioters protest outside the United States Capitol as the Jan. 6 confirmation of Joe Biden’s election as president crossed the security lines, bursting into the chambers of the Senate.
In the crowd were several residents of Orange County, some who had posted photos from that day on social media and bragged about their participation to others. Their words came back to haunt them, as FBI special agents followed digital leads at residences across the county, including Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa.
While many remain in custody awaiting trial, U.S. district court judges are beginning to hand down sentences. On December 7, Huntington Beach resident Mark Steven Simon, whose actions were traced to Washington, DC on the day of the attack, was sentenced to 45 days and ordered to pay restitution.
Aiden Leos, 6, killed in highway shootout, suspects charged
Aiden Leos, 6, from Costa Mesa, was gunned down on May 21 while in the backseat of his mother Joanna Cloonan’s vehicle on Hwy 55 in Orange on his way to a classroom. nursery school to Yorba Linda and later died in hospital from his injuries.
Grieving community members have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in rewards for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case, with Orange County supervisors Donald Wagner and Katrina Foley loaning funds discretionary to the cause.
Marcus Anthony Eriz, 24, and his girlfriend, Wynne Lee, 23, were arrested on June 6 in connection with the shooting caused by road rage. Eriz reportedly fired the fatal shot from the passenger seat while Lee was driving. The couple are still awaiting trial.
Following the incident, residents placed toys, flowers and candles in a makeshift memorial on a highway overpass near the scene of the shooting. Plans are underway to honor Aiden with a plaque at the Orange County Zoo.
Tito Ortiz wins HB board seat fight, steps down amid controversy
Keeping the promise to “Make Huntington Beach Safe Again,” Tito Ortiz, a native of the region, was elected to city council in November 2020 with the most votes in city history.
The professional mixed martial arts veteran, however, had a tumultuous six months as the city’s interim mayor and stepped down on June 1, citing personal attacks and fears for the safety of his family.
Ortiz’s refusal to wear a mask kept board meetings virtual for a while, and he was once forced to apologize after he socialized a local hamburger establishment that wouldn’t serve him because that, once again, he had entered the restaurant without a mask.
“You have to love this job and you have to engage in this work, and I haven’t seen it,” City Councilor Mike Posey told Ortiz at a meeting in February.
After his resignation, the fighter turned town councilor was replaced on the stage by Rhonda Bolton. This month, Ortiz put his Huntington Harbor home up for sale for $ 6 million.
COVID-19 vaccine arrives in Orange County, inspiring optimism, new debate
From super PODS (distribution points) to debates over safety or efficacy, this year’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been as busy in our coastal area as it has been across the country.
Working with the Orange County Fire Authority, county health officials have established an incident management team to oversee COVID-19 vaccine administration and distribution points.
“This is our one-way ticket out of this pandemic,” said Dr Clayton Chau, director of the OC Health Care Agency, of vaccines at the March 31 opening of a super POD at the park. OC exhibitions. “There is no other way around – we have to do it.”
But even as some lined up long lines for the COVID-19 vaccine, debates over the effectiveness of injections and whether governments and businesses should impose inoculation took center stage. scene.
Residents of Orange County opposed to the vaccination continue to protest and voice their views at local town halls and county-level meetings, calling on leaders to challenge state mandates.
OC schools become ground zero for parent protests
Many schools remained closed or partially closed as students engaged in online and blended learning in the first semester of 2021. Parents in favor of reopening campuses staged numerous protests outside school district offices, urging not to wear masks under the banner “Let Them Breathe” or resume team sports with the chant “Let Them Play”.
School board meetings became an arena in which parents voiced concerns, called for anti-mandate resolutions, and threatened to reject administrators who did not side with them. At a Dec. 14 meeting of the Newport-Mesa Unified Board of Directors, a father, worried about children being vaccinated without parental consent, took on a threatening tone.
“If my son is injured or dies,” he said, “you better believe I won’t come back to talk. “
Popular events, once canceled, make a triumphant return
Not all the news in 2021 was bad news. Despite the advent of the Delta variant, many of the shutdowns that had come to define 2020 have come to an end. This year saw a massive reopening of K-12 schools in the fall and the return of a few major events, previously forced to close or migrate to virtual models in the first year of the pandemic.
Organizers of the OC Fair have started planning a modified in-person event in 2021 under the new theme “Time for Fun”.
“We won’t let the summer go by without an OC Fair celebration,” OC Fair & Event Center general manager Michele Richards promised last December. “We understand how much people want the show to come back because we feel the same way. And we are working to make it happen.
Even with attendance caps and reduced offers, the party drew 1,055,770 guests to the Costa Mesa fairgrounds in 23 days.
Laguna Beach’s hugely popular Pageant of the Masters, a live art exhibit, also returned this summer with the theme “Made in America”, while the previously canceled Huntington Beach Pacific Airshow resumed in October before being canceled on the third day due to the oil spill. .
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