Bay Briefing: What California’s decision to lift its mask mandate means

California’s indoor mask mandate expires next week, meaning that fully vaccinated people will no longer have to don face coverings in counties where there is no local mask order.

In the Bay Area, some counties have already agreed to lift their own local restrictions at the same time, but others have hinted there will be additional criteria to meet before they end their mask mandates.

Not everyone can go without masks, though. People who aren’t vaccinated, those who work, visit or live in a long-term care facility and those at K-12 schools will still have to cover their noses and mouths. But the agreement to lift the mandate starting Feb. 16 is a sign that the omicron variant has receded just enough for public health officials to continue as planned.

• Even as coronavirus cases fall, deaths have risen sharply in recent days, just as infectious disease experts feared would happen.

• Want the latest updates on COVID news in the Bay Area? Here’s our live coverage.

Housing crisis

 Bay Briefing: What Californias decision to lift its mask mandate means

For buyers in some S.F. areas, there are very few homes to choose from.

Jessica Christian/The Chronicle

Imagine putting a house on the market right now and being flooded with more than a thousand offers.

That’s not quite what’s happening in Bay Area real estate, but for many home buyers, it sure feels like it. Recent data from the National Association of Realtors shows that there is just one affordable house for sale for every 1,206 households making between $100,000 and $124,999.

Not every household is looking to buy right now, but experts say the figures illustrate how homeownership is out of the cards for an increasing segment of the local population. In the long run, that may drive families to leave the region altogether.

Read more from Lauren Hepler.

What to eat

 Bay Briefing: What Californias decision to lift its mask mandate means

A box of bagels from Midnite Bagel, a San Francisco pop-up from former Tartine baker Nick Beitcher.

Midnite Bagel

You can’t say bagel without “bay,” which is probably why San Francisco is so obsessed with them right now. Midnite Bagel, one of the city’s favored pop-ups for a West Coast-style bagel, is planning to move into an Inner Sunset storefront in the spring. Other pastry and coffee offerings also await.

The team behind San Francisco’s Lokma is getting into the fine dining scene. With Taksim, which calls the former Cockscomb space at 564 Fourth St. home, co-owners Serkan Sozen, Birkan Dogan, Emre Kabayel and Neslihan Demirtas want to broaden the public’s idea of what Turkish cuisine looks like.

There are six days until Valentine’s Day, and regardless of whether you’re celebrating relationship love, platonic love or self-love, restaurants around the Bay Area are prepping their holiday menus. Maybe a top splurge restaurant is in your future?

Around the Bay

 Bay Briefing: What Californias decision to lift its mask mandate means

Crime in the area around Lake Merritt has been a concern for residents.

Gabrielle Lurie/The Chronicle

That’s life at the lake: Residents are unfazed by the rising crime around Oakland’s Lake Merritt. The real tension, they say, is gentrification and housing affordability.

A union shop? Starbucks employees in California are pushing to unionize, with workers at three stores filing federal paperwork to organize.

Newsom’s challenger: Republican state Sen. Brian Dahle will announce a campaign to take on California’s incumbent governor in the 2022 election.

Catching up: To understand why there’s a San Francisco school board recall election on Feb. 15, you have to dive back into recent history from just before the pandemic.

SFPD vs. S.F. D.A.: The police brutality trial that sparked SFPD’s rift with D.A. Chesa Boudin has started. Here’s what to expect as it progresses.

From Ann Killion: For Olympic skater and Bay Area native Vincent Zhou, the Games won’t go on.

Weather forecast: The S.F. Bay Area’s February heat wave begins this week. Here’s when to expect temperatures to peak.

Eye candy: Check out The Chronicle’s best photos in January.

Want to know a secret?

 Bay Briefing: What Californias decision to lift its mask mandate means

Mai Nguyen harvests wheat at a farm outside Sebastopol.

Courtesy Sashwa Burrous

Wine Country’s most exclusive crop right now is heirloom wheat. Bakers are clamoring for Mai Nguyen’s flavorful flours, and distillers and brewers are falling over themselves to get their hands on the grains.

While niche wine grapes and heirloom tomatoes are more romanticized in Wine Country, Nguyen is part of a small group of farmers reviving heirloom wheat in Northern California.

Nguyen’s farm, which produces grains both for brewing and baking, takes an activist approach to a very real problem in agriculture. Not only are the wheat varieties drought tolerant, they also might be key to reversing some effects of climate change.

Read more from Esther Mobley on what’s driving the craze — and how a home baker can get their hands on some flour.

Bay Briefing is written by Gwendolyn Wu and sent to readers’ email inboxes on weekday mornings. Sign up for the newsletter here, and contact the writer at


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