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COVID-19 only trailed heart disease and cancer in deaths, according to the CDC study.

According to data published by the National Vital Statistics System, there was more than 3.3 million deaths in the US last year, a 16 percent year-over-year increase. Most COVID deaths were recorded early in the pandemic and over the holidays. Men had a higher mortality rate with COVID than women.

COVID-19 was listed as the cause of death for 345,323 individuals in 2020, according to the data. For comparison, heart disease killed 690,882 and cancer killed 598,932.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky hopes that the data encourages more individuals to get the vaccine and drive those numbers down. “I know this is not easy and so many of us are frustrated with the disruption this pandemic has had on our everyday lives, but we can do this as a nation working together,” Walensky said.

The government agency also addressed concerns that COVID-19 deaths may have been overstated.

A separate CDC study found that the death total was accurate for 2020. The separate study did confirm that 97 percent of deaths from COVID-19 were reported alongside another condition. “These findings support the accuracy of COVID-19 mortality surveillance in the United States using official death certificates,” researchers said.

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