Laguna Beach gathering celebrates state’s exit from pandemic rules

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More than 50 people met at Laguna Beach City Hall on June 15, 2021, to celebrate the reopening of California’s economy. Photo by Sharon Evans.

More than 50 residents and city employees came together at Laguna Beach City Hall to formally recognize the city’s reemergence from COVID-19 restrictions and celebrate their post-pandemic lives on Tuesday.

Mayor Pro Tem Sue Kempf and long-time resident Denny Freidenrich met up with friends and neighbors, many of whom hadn’t seen each other in the last 16 months, for the community group photograph. 

Freidenrich asked for a moment of silence to remember the more than 600,000 Americans who have died after contracting COVID, more than 62,000 of whom were Californians. Of those, 5,099 people were from Orange County by Tuesday, according to the Orange County Healthcare Agency. He praised his neighbors for remaining calm during the unprecedented health crisis, despite the trauma everyone was experiencing.

Kempf thanked her city council colleagues, city staffers, and first responders for keeping Laguna Beach residents safe during the pandemic.

“The decision to close the beaches was painful for everyone, but it saved lives,” Kempf said, adding she’s optimistic that employers who either let staff go or shuttered their businesses will bounce back soon.

Even though Gov. Gavin Newsom rolled back restrictions on most businesses—allowing fully vaccinated individuals to enjoy businesses without wearing masks—state health officials underscored Tuesday that COVID-19 remains a deadly threat to some people.

“This is a momentous day for our state, thanks in large part to the efforts of Californians to follow public health guidelines during the pandemic and get vaccinated,” said Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, director of California’s Department of Public Health and State Public Health Officer. “While disease transmission has dropped significantly, COVID-19 is still present and still deadly, especially for the elderly, immune-compromised and the unvaccinated.”

Among those who showed up in front of city hall were Fire Chief Mike Garcia, Interim Police Chief Jeff Calvert, Capt. Jason Kravetz, Lt. Jim Cota, Diane and Cort Kloke, Laguna Food Pantry executive director Anne Belyea, Dave Rubel, Betsy Jenkins, KX FM development director Jayne Herring, LagunaTunes Community Chorus president Patti Jo Kiraly, philanthropists Barbara and Greg MacGillivray, Mayor Bob Whalen, City Manager Shohreh Dupuis, City Clerk Ann Marie McKay, City Treasurer Laura Parisi, Laguna Beach Senior executive director Nadia Babayi, Scott Ferguson, La Vida Laguna owner Billy Fried, Don Romero, Lori Rosenberg, Carrie Reynolds, Lisa Mansour and her daughter Tessa, Ann Larson, Russell Singer, Don and Sally Anne Sheridan, and Third Street Writers member Cecile Sarruf.

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