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the coronavirus crisis

COVID-19 was 3rd leading cause of death in 2020, early CDC data shows

New early data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the United States last year.

The CDC released provisional data on Wednesday that showed COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in 2020 behind heart disease and cancer, CNN reports. The death rate increased by 15.9 percent from 2019 to 2020, rising to 828.7 deaths per 100,000 people, with a total of 3.36 million deaths during the year.

COVID-19 was either the underlying cause or a contributing cause of 377,883 deaths in 2020, the CDC said. After COVID-19, the other top causes of death were unintentional injury, stroke, chronic lower respiratory disease, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, and kidney disease. The highest number of COVID-19 deaths occurred during April and December, the CDC also said.

A final report is expected to be released later in the year, but CDC director Rochelle Walensky said the early data "should serve, again, as a catalyst for each of us [to] continue to do our part to drive down cases and reduce the spread of COVID-19 and get people vaccinated as quickly as possible."