The university says it's concerned about rising cases counts and the presence of the variant on campus.

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Pitt is telling students to shelter-in-place starting at 9 p.m. Wednesday.

The university says the main campus is moving to the “elevated risk posture” Wednesday night because of a consistent increase in positive cases among students. With the presence of the U.K. variant on campus, health leaders are worried the trend will continue.

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“It is definitely more concerning, but it is definitely preventable. Social distancing, masking, and when it’s your turn to get vaccinated, roll up your sleeve and get vaccinated,” said Dr. Lee Harrison, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Pitt.

Dr. Harrison said the U.K variant spreads more easily and could be more severe, but it is very preventable.

“It goes from person to person more easily and there’s some evidence now that it may be more severe, more likely to cause death if you catch it. But the good news is that all the evidence suggests that the current vaccines are highly protective against the U.K. variant,” Dr. Harrison said.

According to the university, an average of around eight students on its Oakland campus are testing positive for COVID-19 per day, and the COVID-19 variant is among the positive results.

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“We’re so close to the end. Keep that in mind. Come on,” said Pitt sophomore Christopher Varghese.

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The university has growing concerns about newly released data on its COVID-19 dashboard.

While case numbers remain low on its regional campuses, they are soaring on the main campus. Twenty-nine students have tested positive, 67 are being isolated and one staff or faculty member has also tested positive there all within the past 14 days. Infections have spread through 13 residence halls.

Pitt says the shelter-in-place means students can leave the house to attend in-person classes and for essentials. Group work and student activities should be held virtually, and campus dining will be take-out only. Residence hall lounges, rec rooms and kitchens are also being closed.

The shelter-in-place period will end once infections level off to a safer number, the university said.

University officials tell KDKA they are enforcing all health and safety rules for both on and off-campus students. Those who do not follow them may face sanctions.

Pitt officials said, “if anyone observes behavior that does not align with our health rules, we encourage them to report it with as much detail as possible, so that we may follow up appropriately.

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To date, 160 students have been found responsible for a violation of a health and safety guideline, with sanctions including suspension.”