Home / Health / Articles / Top causes of death in the United States: Heart disease, cancer and COVID-19

Coronavirus is one of the three leading causes of death since February, when the nation had its first death from COVID-19. The virus has killed more than 360,000 people since then, making it a leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) keeps a provisional death count related to COVID-19. The deaths counted in that data are well below those compiled from the state and county levels because the provisional count is based on death certificates that may take weeks to filter up to the federal agency.

The data also includes deaths attributed to pneumonia or influenza. According to the CDC, deaths caused by COVID-19 might be misclassified as pneumonia or influenza deaths in the death certificates. For that reason, the number of deaths caused by COVID-19 is likely higher than the confirmed data indicates. It is also higher than the daily counts USAFacts compiles from state and local sources.

The geographic breakdown shows how COVID-19 is a disproportionate cause of death in the Northeast.

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Where the CDC ranks COVID-19 in the causes of death for 2020 won’t be finalized until late 2021 at the earliest. What’s clear is that it was one of the most significant causes of death this spring.

Curious how causes of death vary by age and geography? Check out our article on variations in causes of death for more information on top causes of death or our article on COVID-19 deaths by race for more data on COVID-19.

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Underlying Cause of Death, 1999-2018 Request
Provisional Death Counts for Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)
Provisional COVID-19 Death Counts by Week Ending Date and State
Weekly Counts of Deaths by State and Select Causes, 2019-2020

Both the CDC's provisional COVID-19 death data and the USAFacts-compiled state and local data are subject to change. Data may differ both on this page and elsewhere due to various datasets maintained by CDC. The CDC's data excludes non-natural causes of deaths including accidents.