FILE - ME Janet Mills, Nirav Shah 3-12-2020

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks at a news conference March 12, 2020, at the State House in Augusta, Maine, as Gov. Janet Mills looks on.

(The Center Square) – Forty-four Maine residents have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and 12 new cases have been reported, according to Dr. Nirev Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The numbers are actually just eight higher than the number reported Thursday because of how health departments keep statistics. Three of the new cases are out-of-state residents and one tested positive at another testing facility due to a clerical error but has tested negative at the health department.

Though the number of new cases appeared to be slowing, Shah emphasized the continuing need to social distance and commended Maine residents for their efforts.

“These changes are hard and this is not easy,” Shah said. “This is, in its simplest terms, an act of good citizenship.”

Shah spent much of his daily update discussing preparedness. As of 9:45 a.m. the state had 135 intensive care unit beds total and 56 available. Of the state’s 291 ventilators, 218 were available.

State officials are asking the federal government for an additional 300 ventilators, Shah said.

Health care providers also need more personal protect equipment (PPE). Gov. Janet Mills sent a letter to the federal government requesting more. The state is sending 4,000 gloves, 700 face shields, 2,695 masks, 1,000 tie-back suits, almost 900 gowns and 600 shoe covers through a partnership with the Department of Transportation.

The Maine Policy Institute sent a letter to Mills recommending several steps the organization said would “get Maine’s economy moving in the right direction again.”

Those steps include matching the state tax filing date to the extension announced by the federal government Friday morning from April 15 to July 15. The group also recommended a reduction in the state’s minimum wage for all industries, a suspension of the online sales tax and looser rules concerning short-term insurance for people who have lost their jobs.

The group also recommends “eliminating red tape to help bolster the state’s health care workforce. That will require the state to recognize medical licenses from other states and expedite licensing.”

Mills is also asked to distribute some of the per-pupil education funds to families who are homeschooling their children.