PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The bishop of Maine’s Roman Catholic diocese called on Catholics in the state to observe social distancing and other precautions this Christmas.

Bishop Robert Deeley said 2020 is a year for “a different Christmas” because of the coronavirus pandemic. He said he plans to stay home and celebrate live-streamed masses on Christmas morning at midnight and 10 a.m. this year.

Deeley said it's a good year to “put more lights up outside the house but bring less people into the house.” He also encouraged the use of facial coverings in any gatherings that involve people from different households.

Deeley previously called on the state's Catholics to use the coronavirus vaccine when it becomes available to them.

In other pandemic news:


The latest average positivity rate in Maine is 5.84%. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Maine the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test specimens using data from The COVID Tracking Project.

The 7-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 3.32% on Dec. 7 to 5.84% on Dec. 21.

Public health authorities in Maine have reported more than 19,000 cases of the virus in the state since the start of the pandemic.



Officials with the University of Maine system said students will come back to campus for screenings on Jan. 19. A mix of in-person, hybrid and online classes will follow beginning on Jan. 25, officials said.

The state is supporting expanded testing with $8.15 million in federal coronavirus aid, officials said.

University system officials said residence halls will be open. Individual universities within the system will distribute details to students, faculty and staff members in the coming weeks, officials said.

“There is reason for optimism with the deployment of a safe and effective vaccine, but we expect to confront higher case counts in January than we did in August. We will respond with increased testing capacity," system chancellor Dannel Malloy said.