As the coronavirus pandemic dragged into its second calendar year in 2021, Orange County leaders and public health officials continued to stay afloat of shifting protocols as statewide mandates on indoor mask-wearing came and went, and came again, and as schools and events returned to in-person formats.
While the development of a COVID-19 vaccine spelled hope for a light at the end of the tunnel, a rising tide of opposition hampered Orange County’s initial goal to reach herd immunity by Independence Day.
Today, with just above 71% of residents fully vaccinated and the more formidable and transmissible Delta and Omicron variants looming large, the dream of a return to pre-pandemic life remains elusive.
For as much the coronavirus dominated headlines, coastal Orange County played host to no small number of notable events in 2021. Here are some of the top stories in the Daily Pilot’s coverage area:
When news of an Oct. 1 pipeline breach about 4.5 miles off Orange County’s coastline at a deep-sea oil processing facility went public, officials at the local, county and state level collaborated to help protect local beaches and wildlife.
As the U.S. Coast Guard and a host of agencies investigated the cause of the spill, affected cities declared local emergencies and closed beaches and marine commerce while a massive cleanup effort was organized.
Meanwhile, legislators moved swiftly in a united call to end offshore drilling in federal waters, where the spill occurred. County Supervisor Katrina Foley joined with state Sen. Dave Min (D-Irvine), state Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach) and state Sen. Tom Umberg (D-Orange) in a call to action.
“We see something like this happen every five to 10 years,” Min addressed the Huntington Beach City Council on Oct. 4. “It’s horrific for our beaches, our environment and our marine ecosystems, and it has to stop.”
Earlier this week, authorities announced that coastal cleanup efforts have been completed.
Less than one week into the new year, Americans watched as rioters protesting outside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 confirmation of the election of Joe Biden as president breached security lines, storming into Senate chambers.
In the crowd were several Orange County residents, some who’d posted photos from that day on social media and boasted to others of their participation. Their words returned to haunt them, as FBI special agents followed digital trails to residences countywide, including Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa.
While many remain in custody awaiting trials, U.S. District Court judges are beginning to hand out sentences. On Dec. 7, Huntington Beach resident Mark Steven Simon — whose actions were traced to Washington, D.C., on the day of the attack, received a 45-day sentence and was ordered to pay restitution.
Aiden Leos, 6, of Costa Mesa, was shot May 21 while riding in the backseat of his mother Joanna Cloonan’s vehicle on the 55 Freeway in Orange on his way to a kindergarten class in Yorba Linda and later died at the hospital from his injuries.
Grief-stricken community members raised hundreds of thousands of dollars as a reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case, with Orange County Supervisors Donald Wagner and Katrina Foley lending discretionary funds to the cause.
Marcus Anthony Eriz, 24, and his girlfriend, Wynne Lee, 23, were arrested June 6 in connection with the road-rage shooting. Eriz reportedly fired the fatal shot from the passenger seat as Lee drove. The pair are still awaiting trial.
Following the incident, locals placed toys, flowers and candles in a makeshift memorial at a freeway overpass near the scene of the shooting. Plans are in the works to honor Aiden with a plaque at the Orange County Zoo.
Running on a promise to “Make Huntington Beach Safe Again,” local native Tito Ortiz was elected to the City Council in November 2020 with the most votes in the city’s history.
The former professional mixed martial arts fighter, however, experienced a tumultuous six months as the city’s mayor pro tem and resigned on June 1, citing personal attacks and fears for his family’s safety.
Ortiz’s refusal to wear a mask kept council meetings virtual for a time, and he once was made to apologize after disparaging on social media a local burger establishment that wouldn’t serve him because, again, he’d entered the restaurant without a mask.
“You have to love this job and you have to be committed to this job, and I haven’t seen it,” Councilman Mike Posey told Ortiz at a February meeting.
After his resignation, the fighter turned councilman was replaced on the dais by Rhonda Bolton. This month, Ortiz listed his Huntington Harbour home for sale for $6 million.
From super PODS (points of dispensing) to debates over safety or efficacy, this year’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout was as fraught in our coastal area as it was around the nation.
Working with the Orange County Fire Authority, county health officials established an incident management team to oversee administration of COVID-19 vaccines and distribution points.
“This is our one-way ticket to get out of this pandemic,” Dr. Clayton Chau, director of the OC Health Care Agency, said of vaccines at the March 31 opening of a super POD at the O.C. fairgrounds. “There is not any other solution whatsoever — we need to do this.”
But even as some formed long lines for the COVID-19 vaccine, debates over the effectiveness of the shots, and whether governments and businesses should mandate inoculation, took center stage.
Orange County denizens opposed to vaccination continue to demonstrate and air their views at local public meetings at the city and county levels, calling on leaders to challenge state mandates.
Many schools remained locked or partially shuttered, as students participated in online and hybrid learning for the first half of 2021. Parents in favor of reopening campuses held numerous protests outside school district offices, urging masklessness under the banner “Let Them Breathe” or the resumption of team sports with the chant “Let Them Play.”
School board meetings became one arena in which parents voiced concerns, asked for the adoption of anti-mandate resolutions and threatened to vote out trustees who failed to side with them. During a Dec. 14 meeting of the Newport-Mesa Unified Board of Trustees one father, worried of the prospect of kids getting vaccinated without parent consent, took on a threatening tone.
“If my son gets hurt or dies,” he said, “you best believe I’m not coming back talking.”
Not all news in 2021 was bad news. Despite the advent of the Delta variant, many of the shutdowns that had come to define 2020 ended. This year saw a mass reopening of K-12 schools in the fall and the return of a few major events, previously forced to closure or migrate to virtual models during the pandemic’s first year.
Organizers of the O.C. Fair began planning for a modified in-person event in 2021 under the new theme “Time for Fun.”
“We will not let summer go by without some celebration of the OC Fair,” OC Fair & Event Center Executive Director Michele Richards vowed last December. “We understand how badly people want the fair back because we feel the same way. And we’re working to make that happen.”
Even with attendance caps and scaled-down offerings, the fete drew 1,055,770 guests to the Costa Mesa fairgrounds in 23 days.
Laguna Beach’s ever-popular Pageant of the Masters, a living art display, also returned this summer with the theme “Made in America,” while Huntington Beach’s previously canceled Pacific Airshow resumed in October before being canceled on its third day due to the oil spill.
Support our coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.
All the latest on Orange County from Orange County.
Get our free TimesOC newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Daily Pilot.
More on this Subject
TimesOC: Anaheim faces lawsuit, state violations for Angel Stadium deal
Subscribe for unlimited access
Best Indian Destination to Visit
Goa- Best Indian Destination to Visit
Goa is a state in western India. It is known for its beaches, backwaters, Adventure water Sports, waterfalls, and temples. It is a popular tourist destination due to its laid-back atmosphere, cheap hotels, and world-class restaurants. Palolem Beach, Colva Beach, Agonda Beach, Dudhsagar Falls, Anjuna Market, Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Braganza House, Mahadev Temple, Palácio do Deão, Mangeshi Temple, Fontainhas, Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary, and Reis Magos Fort are famous destination in Goa. And Goa is also know for night life. Enjoy Night clubs, party here . So in Goa you can teste a different culture in Goa.
Delhi- Best Indian Destination to Visit
Delhi is the national capital of India and home to 1.17 billion people. It’s a city of contrasts where modernity coexists with ancient history. From the busy streets to the quiet temples, Delhi offers something for everyone. Red Fort, Jama Masjid, Qutub Minar, Lotus Temple, Aksherdham, Zoo, Old Fort, India Gate, Humayun Tomb are some of best Destination to visit. Apart form these You can visit:- Lajpat Nagar, sarojini Nagar, Janpath and Jama Masjid are the best Shopping Places in delhi. And in delhi you can find out best street foods menu in veg and non veg dishes.
Agra- Best Indian Destination to Visit
Agra is a major city of Uttar Pradesh, and a major tourist attraction is located in Agra call as “ The Taj Mahal”. You can Expericne the art of Mughal empire in agra. ALso this is one of the places to visit near delhi within 200 kms. Beyond Taj Mahal You Can Visit These Places That Are Near Or In Agra. These places are Agra Fort, Sikandra, Fatehpur Sikri, Dayal Bagh Temple, Bateshwar Temple, Chini Ka Rauza, Keetham Lake, Mathura, and vrindavan. Mathura and vrindavan are close to agra about 70 Kms far. These are Hindu holy places.
Jaipur- Best Indian Destination to Visit
Jaipur is the capital of the Indian state of Rajasthan. It alludes to the royal dynasty that once ruled the region and built the Old City, also known as the “Pink City” because of its distinctive building colour, in 1727. In the heart of a grand, colonnaded area lies the City Palace complex. Gardens, courtyards and museums still exist today as part of its royal house. Hawa Mahal, Jainivas Garden, City Palace, Amber Palace at Jantar Mantar, Samode, Light and Sound Show, Nahargarh Fort, Jaigarh Fort, Jal Mahal, Galtaji are some of the best places in Jaipur.
Kashmir- Best Indian Destination to Visit
Kashmir Valley is one of the top tourist destinations in India. Apart from its apple orchards, flower gardens and other attractions, Kashmir is famous for its natural beauty. With its distinctive handicrafts and famous Kashmiri shawls, it attracts tourists. The most popular tourist destinations in Jammu and Kashmir are Srinagar, Mughal Gardens, Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Patnitop and Jammu. Many Hindu pilgrims visit Vaishno Devi and Amarnath every year, which has a significant impact on the state’s economy.
Manali- Best Indian Destination to Visit
Manali is a city in Himachal Pradesh, India. It is one of the top ski resorts in India. It is famous for its beautiful surroundings, favorable climate and extensive cultural history. It is a popular travel destination in India and attracts visitors from all over the world.
Manali is a popular honeymoon destination as you can witness snowfall and gorgeous mountain views from late December to early January. This is the ideal time for skiing enthusiasts. Camping, hiking, mountain biking, ziplining, rappelling, paragliding, downhill cycling, jeep safaris, river crossings, angling, and many other activities are available.
Kerala- Best Indian Destination to Visit
The Indian state of Kerala is situated on the moist Malabar Coast. It is famous for its backwaters, network of canals and palm-fringed beaches. The Western Ghats are naturally occurring mountains that support a wide variety of plant life including tea, coffee and spice plantations. Wayanad and other sanctuaries as well as national parks like Eravikulam and Periyar are home to elephants, langur monkeys and tigers. Alleppey, Kochi, Thekkady, Munnar, Thrissur, Kovalam, Wayanad, Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode, Kannur are best destination to visit in Kerala.
Andaman and Nicobar- Best Indian Destination to Visit
The Andaman Islands are an Indian island chain in the Bay of Bengal. And Due to the increasing popularity of beaches and adventure sports like snorkeling and sea walking, tourism to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is on the rise. Long Island, Havelock Island, Little Andaman Island, Diglipur, Parrot Island, Bharatpur Beach, Samudrika Marine Museum, Cellular Jail, Lamiya Bay Beach are some of the best spots to visit in Andaman and Nichobar. Indian tourists do not require a visa to visit the Andaman Islands, but if they wish to visit any tribal area, they require special authorization from the Deputy Commissioner at Port Blair. Foreign nationals require a permit. This clearance is given to foreign nationals coming by air on arrival at Port Blair. This can be a best Indian destination to visit.