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WGLT's reporting on the coronavirus pandemic, which began in McLean County in March 2020.

COVID Among Leading Causes Of Death In Central Illinois

COVID-19 will appear on future graphics of leading causes of death for this time period.

Heart disease and cancer usually top the list of the reasons people die each year in central Illinois and throughout the state.  The numbers tell a grim story: 48 weeks into the pandemic, you can add COVID-19 to the list.

COVID-19 is the third leading cause of death statewide and in most central Illinois counties, including McLean, Peoria, Woodford, and Tazewell.

That's through a comparison of 2019 death numbers from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) with COVID fatalities over the course of the pandemic, through Jan. 12. Death numbers by year, cause, rank, and county tend to be fairly steady, according to state records--2020 death counts other than for the coronavirus won't be available for some time.

It’s unlikely that COVID will overtake cancer in most counties as the second-leading cause of death in a 12-month period, during the final few weeks until the one-year mark of the pandemic arrives.

Such comparisons are, by nature, imprecise.

COVID death reports may be delayed by days or weeks. There may be differences in determining primary and contributing causes of death. Yet, the rankings statewide and in many counties are consistent with each other and show COVID-19 to be among the most significant causes of death in the state and region, despite all the precautions taken during the course of the pandemic.

McLean County

  1. Heart Disease: 271 deaths
  2. Cancer: 269
  3. COVID-19: 131
  4. Chronic Lower Respiratory diseases: 100
  5. Alzheimer’s Disease: 88
  6. Unintentional injuries: 75
  7. Stroke: 51

Peoria County

  1. Heart Disease: 420
  2. Cancer: 412
  3. COVID-19: 142
  4. Stroke: 109
  5. Chronic Lower Respiratory diseases: 106
  6. Unintentional injuries: 105
  7. Alzheimer’s Disease: 83

Tazewell County

  1. Cancer: 314
  2. Heart Disease: 273
  3. COVID-19: 200
  4. Chronic Lower Respiratory diseases: 99
  5. Alzheimer’s Disease: 73
  6. Unintentional injuries: 66
  7. Stroke: 56

Woodford County

  1. Heart Disease: 105
  2. Cancer: 77
  3. COVID-19: 56
  4. Stroke:30
  5. Alzheimer’s Disease: 27
  6. Chronic Lower Respiratory diseases: 24
  7. Unintentional Injuries: 17


  1. Heart Disease: 25,655
  2. Cancer: 23,875
  3. COVID-19: 17,743
  4. Stroke: 6,144
  5. Accidents: 6,086
  6. Chronic Lower Respiratory disease: 5,532

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.