BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, NJ -- Mayor Jim Baldassare expressed hope that wider access to and simplified methods of rapid testing for COVID-19 infections in the state could lead to an eventual easing of shelter-in-place restrictions in the township.

"Our testing access is getting easier, which enables a better reading on more people and contact trace where appropriate," Baldassare said in a message posted on the township website late Monday. "'Rapid testings' are now being used which were developed by Rutgers University's Human Genetics Institute, allowing for easier and quicker testing of more people."

Meanwhile, a drive-through clinic at Raritan Valley Community College serving Somerset and Hunterdon counties have added new test dates for this week, including Wednesday and Friday.

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Baldassare cited some encouraging statewide data for a guarded level of hope.

"We are seeing some significant improvements across the board, which should hopefully bode well in being able to lift some of the current restrictions soon and put us on a path back to recovery," Baldassare said. "Some of the positives include: the discharge rate of people hospitalized is going way up, with over 6,000 discharged since April 4."

The mayor pointed out that doubling rates have slowed statewide, "and a multi-state task force of economic and healthcare experts is now meeting to determine how we can effectively, and as safely as possible, re-open the economy, so we can all get back to work."

Schools remain closed until at least May 15, per a mandate by Gov. Phil Murphy. Whether schools do reopen after that, the second half of May seems to be a loosely defined target for possible easing of civilian and business restrictions, according to Baldassare.

"While none of this will be easy, I nevertheless remain extremely optimistic that we will start seeing some tangible changes in the next few weeks that will give us all some adrenaline of hope that will turn into actionable results," the mayor said.