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URBANA — After a year-and-a-half dealing with COVID-19, Chancellor Robert Jones said the University of Illinois is ready to return to a “new normal” in the fall.

With vaccinations rolling out and COVID-19 caseloads dropping, Jones said 90–95 percent of classes would be held in-person in the fall, with classes larger than 200 people being held online.

“With the current guidelines, those classes will be online, but everything else will be pretty much face-to-face, but also benefiting from the lessons we've learned about our ability to deliver high quality education in a remote environment,” Jones said Thursday on WDWS-1400 AM.

He said the pandemic will “cause us to think about the nature of work, where that work is done. You're going to probably see changes related to people working remotely,” perhaps in a hybrid format.

“It will be the point of departure, I believe, for a new normal, where we're operating more effectively, more efficiently, we're reducing costs, leveraging technology to help generate a more seamless administrative structure and operational excellence,” Jones said.

And he again credited the saliva-based COVID-19 tests developed by UI researchers for helping the university tamp down outbreaks quickly and reduce the virus’s spread.

“That played a key role in keeping our university safe, and it was so innovative that others around the state of Illinois, the country and the world are using it as well,” Jones said.

In a meeting Thursday of the board of Shield T3, the organization marketing the saliva test outside of Illinois, principal officer Bill Jackson said demand is starting to drop as schools take their summer breaks.

“Some of the colleges that we’re serving are going off on summer break,” he said. “That said, we’re seeing upside capability in other markets as well and within the markets that we currently operate.”

He said summer camps should bring back some testing in the next month, and a new lab launched in southern California for the Claremont Colleges to test those not yet vaccinated.

“There’s still a real market out there,” Jackson said. “Overall we see a dip in the market right now because of the summertime, and we see some testing challenges, but we also see a long term, at least through December and maybe even March of next year, testing continuing.”

UI President Tim Killeen said Shield T3 is processing about 70,000 tests a week outside Illinois, and Jackson said it recently processed its millionth test.

Reporter

Ben Zigterman is a reporter covering business at The News-Gazette. His email is bzigterman@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@bzigterman).

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