AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Lawmakers in Maine plan to hold their first legislative sessions at the Augusta Civic Center instead of the Statehouse as coronavirus cases grow.
The city-owned, 49,000-square-foot civic center, about three miles from the Statehouse, is typically used for events such as concerts, agriculture conventions and conferences. It would provide more space than the Statehouse, and that would make it easier to observe social distancing, a spokeswoman for outgoing Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon told the Portland Press Herald.
The full Legislature last met in March. The top priority for lawmakers will be crafting a new, two-year state budget at a time when Maine finances have been stressed by the pandemic.
New Hampshire lawmakers took a similar approach in June when they met in the University of New Hampshire Whittemore Center Arena.
In other news related to the pandemic:
An additional 142 coronavirus cases have been reported in the state, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.
The seven-day rolling average of new daily cases has risen from 50 new cases per day on Oct. 27 to 164 new cases per day on Tuesday.
The state reported that the number of deaths grew by two, to 158.
The new cases brought the total number of coronavirus cases reported in Maine to over 8,200.
Catholic churches in Maine are reducing indoor attendance at daily and Sunday Mass to a maximum of 50 people. The maximum had been 100 people or 50% capacity, whichever is less.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland said in a statement that the reduction in capacity is due to the growing number of coronavirus cases in Maine. It said the change would take effect no later than Nov. 16.
Bishop Robert Deeley said the diocese would benefit from more communication with the administration of Gov. Janet Mills about the response to the pandemic.
“We will continue to try to make the governor and her staff understand that nurturing a healthy spiritual life is a vital part of the life of many Mainers, including the nearly 250,000 Catholics in our state,” he said.
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