As the rate of new cases of the coronavirus in Philadelphia continues to decline, albeit slowly, the city will begin winding down the operation of the temporary hospital space at Temple University’s Liacouras Center.

It was another sign of improvement after the city avoided a catastrophic surge of cases — and it was also a sign of the caution officials are using as they move forward: As the virus still circulates, the city will keep equipment at the center in case of an unexpected surge or second wave.

“It’s still looking like we’re past the peak of the epidemic and declining,” Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said, reporting 25 more deaths connected to the virus on Wednesday for a toll to date of 541. “The decline is, unfortunately, very slow.”

The same caution was displayed across the region as more baby steps toward normality began: Gov. Phil Murphy ordered New Jersey parks to reopen; Philadelphia set out guidelines for construction and golfing, which can both resume Friday; and Pennsylvania officials said they would release a plan Friday for testing and contact tracing as the state moves toward its phased reopening.

Hard-hit New Jersey, which desperately sought hospital supplies less than a month ago, even returned 100 ventilators to California and sent N95 masks to New York and ventilators to Massachusetts.

But those good signs don’t mean people should become reckless, officials said, urging residents to continue social distancing.

“Thanks to your many sacrifices, we have flattened the curve here,” said Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh, saying the county’s positive cases appear to have reached a plateau. “Now we are going to have to learn to live with this virus.”

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Pennsylvania on Wednesday reported 1,102 additional positive cases of the coronavirus, which brings the total to 44,366. Health Secretary Rachel Levine said state officials continue to weigh “the pros and cons” of releasing the names of long-term homes with outbreaks, as nearly 9,000 residents and employees have been infected statewide.

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A dump of reports from several days brought Pennsylvania’s death toll to 2,195, adding nearly 500. Although the infection rate was slowing overall in New Jersey, where 2,418 new cases were reported Wednesday, the pace of infections was increasing in South Jersey. A new testing site opened at the Motor Vehicle Commission office in Camden, with a second slated to open at Dudley Grange Park on Monday.

And even as Philadelphia expands testing with five new sites opening Thursday, a continued shortage of supplies means limits on who can be tested — health-care workers, seniors, and people with existing health conditions — must remain, Farley said Wednesday.

Admissions at the Liacouras Center will be stopped, and patients already there — five on Wednesday — will remain until they are healthy enough to go home, Farley said. Medical workers, including military personnel, who are stationed at the Temple site may be redeployed to local hospitals, city officials said.

As of Wednesday, 1,012 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Philadelphia and 1,858 in the greater Philadelphia area.

“Those hospitals in the city are busy, but clearly they’re able to handle the epidemic at this stage,” Farley said.

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Under state order, construction projects can resume Friday; in Philadelphia, no work can occur in occupied properties and all work is limited to 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, except in emergencies, Mayor Jim Kenney announced Wednesday.

Local governments can enforce stricter rules for the reopening of construction sites than the safety guidelines the Wolf administration outlined Thursday. The city is reviewing the guidelines, and the Philadelphia Board of Health also is considering new regulations to increase fines for unauthorized work, Kenney said.

“This is just a first step, but an important first step, as we attempt to restart the economy while still doing everything we can to mitigate the spread of this virus,” Kenney said.

With a week and a half before some rural areas may be cleared for reopening, Levine cautioned that people in any region that move to the first phase cannot resume regular activity.

Residents of counties that enter the less restrictive yellow stage must avoid excessive socializing and taking unnecessary trips to the grocery store and other essential businesses. If people can work from home, Levine said, they should do so even in the yellow stage.

“I know everyone has been thinking about what life will be like when we move parts of the state from red to yellow and eventually to green,” she said. “Pennsylvanians are certainly ready to get back to work and back to their regular routine. But it’s very important to remember social distancing and wearing a mask are still going to be important.”

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Pennsylvania officials moved to expand residents’ access to food and make it easier to apply for SNAP and EBT benefits on Wednesday. The state is eliminating the long paperwork and income verification involved in applying for SNAP and EBT benefits, and will allow residents to receive food through the Disaster Household Distribution plan without verifying eligibility, said Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding.

Gov. Tom Wolf said the state is also ramping up partnerships with organizations to make sure surplus harvests are donated to food banks, and said farmers will be reimbursed for the lost food. Food banks will also receive additional financial assistance.

“We know there are now more people that need help than ever before,” said Wolf. “No Pennsylvanian should be going hungry.”

In New Jersey, state and county parks and golf courses can reopen on Saturday, according to an executive order Murphy signed Wednesday. Attendance at parks will be capped at 50% of capacity, and county parks can reopen at the discretion of local officials.

Visitors will be required to maintain social distancing protocols while visiting these areas, and urged to wear masks, though not mandated. Murphy warned he would institute a mask order or close the parks again if residents don’t adhere to safety requirements.

“So please enjoy the parks, but stay away from each other,” he said.

He also signed an order allowing ballot and referendum petitions to be submitted electronically. He did not make a decision on reopening schools, currently closed until May 15, but said his “gut” indicated they would likely remain shuttered for longer.

Chester County officials, too, said Wednesday they would reopen three of the county’s seven parks on May 6 and the four others on May 12. Officials asked residents to find somewhere else to recreate if a park’s parking lot is full.

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Philadelphia will also reopen five city-owned golf courses and two driving ranges on Friday, when socially distanced golfing becomes permitted statewide. Golfers won’t be able to socialize or use facility clubhouses or restrooms, city officials said.

Officials urged residents to start thinking about steps they’ll need to take to stay safe whenever and wherever things reopen.

“Social distancing needs to become second nature and socially expected, in the same way that shaking hands used to be,” said Arkoosh, a physician who has a background in public health. “And I’m gonna put shaking hands in the past tense, because we’re not going to be shaking hands again for a very, very long time.”

Contributing to this article were staff writers Erin McCarthy, Ellie Rushing, Allison Steele, and Michaelle Bond .