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Even as California and New York celebrated loosening the vast majority of their social distancing curbs on Tuesday, the United States marked a morbid milestone: at least 600,000 covid-19 deaths.

The precise number is under debate. As of early Wednesday, Reuters said there had been 600,061 reports of covid-linked fatalities since the start of the pandemic, while a Johns Hopkins University tracker placed the death toll at 600,272. Either way, the United States is closing in on the total death toll of the four-year-long Civil War.

The nationwide death rate, however, has dropped sharply since inoculations became widely available. More than 79,000 people died of covid-19 in January, but it has taken almost four months for the death toll to go from 500,000 to 600,000.

Here are some significant developments:

  • In the midst of a severe surge in cases, Moscow mandated that at least 60 percent of workers in companies from the hospitality, education and medical sectors must be vaccinated.
  • The European Union will recommend lifting restrictions on U.S. travelers on Friday, a long-anticipated move that will allow a return to near-normal travel to and from the continent for the first time since the pandemic began, according to diplomats.
  • California fully reopened its economy even as Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) stressed that “this thing can come back” if vaccination rates do not continue increasing.
  • The Trump administration’s hunt for a pandemic “lab leak” went down many paths and came up with no smoking gun to reveal whether the virus could be the result of engineering or a lab accident.
  • Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin laid out a plan to fully reopen the economy in late October. The Southeast Asian nation has been in “total lockdown” since June 1, when it was registering more new cases per capita than any medium- or large-sized country in Asia.
  • The United States reported a seven-day rolling average of 13,530 new cases Tuesday, a 13.5 percent decrease from the previous week. Covid-linked hospitalizations fell by 13 percent.