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Baby's gender a surprise for ultrasound tech mom
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It wasn’t until Calvin Kurt Eickmann was born that his parents, Chris and Jacey, knew he was a boy.

Calvin, who was born at 10:45 a.m. on Saturday, was the first baby born in 2021 at Mary Lanning Healthcare. He weighed 8 pounds, 13 ounces and was 22 inches long.

While maintaining the surprise of the newborn Eickmann’s gender wasn’t unique in itself, it was especially difficult for Jacey, who works as an ultrasound technician at Brodstone Memorial Hospital in Superior.

“To keep her from peeking (during the ultrasound) was kind of tricky,” Chris said, speaking by phone Saturday evening from the couple’s room at Mary Lanning.

Chris and Jacey requested the ultrasound technician who scanned Jacey to tell the couple to look away at the right time so Jacey wouldn’t see anything revealing.

Calvin is the first child for Chris and Jacey.

Chris and Jacey chose the name Calvin because they liked it. Kurt is Chris’ father’s name.

Jacey’s water broke around 11:45 p.m. Friday. They left their home in rural Edgar where Chris farms and raises cattle.

“We got things ready, headed this way and got here probably a little before 1 o’clock,” Chris said.

They give credit to their midwife Katelyn Mazuch, who works at the Obstetricians and Gynecologists clinic in Hastings, who helped them deliver Calvin.

The couple wasn’t thinking about having the New Year baby. Jacey’s due date was Dec. 30.

If Calvin wasn’t born over the weekend, the Eickmanns were going to go into the hospital on Monday and induce labor.

“We were on baby’s time,” Jacey said.

Just as the couple didn’t know they would have a boy, the Eickmanns also were surprised to have Mary Lanning’s first baby of the year.

“We’re pretty excited and kind of surprised that we had him on the second and we were the first ones,” Chris said.

Growing up nearby — Chris on the family farm outside of Edgar and Jacey in Fairfield — the Eickmanns have plenty of family in the area.

But with other visitors not currently allowed at Mary Lanning due to the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, pandemic, Chris and Jacey chose to look at their stay at the hospital as a start to their young family, knowing time with extended family would come later.

“It’s giving us time to just celebrate our little, new family of three,” Jacey said. “We’re just excited to share Calvin with the world.”

Fairmont residents give retiring clerk big send-off
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FAIRMONT — The chilly, wintry weather conditions didn’t matter. They didn’t stand a chance against all the love and warmth in the hearts of the Fairmont residents who gathered on New Year’s Eve to give thanks and show appreciation to Linda Priefert Carroll Zuerlein, Fairmont’s village clerk, who is stepping down from her position of 29 years.

Zuerlein had recently received formal recognition of her resignation and was presented a gift card for each of her 29 years of employment from the Fairmont Village Board, for her dedicated service to her community.

Fairmont residents gathered around the Fairmont Village Hall at 4:50 p.m. on Thursday to give her a surprise send-off.

Zuerlein, 59, has been Fairmont’s village clerk since 1991 and is known for her great passion for life. She has been a big plus to the village — always willing to help anyone in any way possible, and responsible for bringing new businesses and tourism into the community.

In 2019, she began noticing some changes in her body and began a series of treatments that included chiropractic, massages and physical therapy. In July of that year, her life changed dramatically when she was taken to Bryan Medical Center East Campus in Lincoln and diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.

With her high spirit and great passion, Zuerlein has fought the disease with great success and even returned to her job in December 2019. But now she has decided to focus all her energy on her health.

Fairmont resident Shelia Lauby came up with the send-off idea, and other residents, like Rhonda Veleba, followed suit in spreading the word.

“Linda is such a positive individual and is an amazing community member — being lay leader at the Fairmont Community Church, Fairmont Community Club member and Fairmont’s Women’s Club member, just to name a few,” Veleba said. “And she’s not just the village clerk — in many ways she IS the Village of Fairmont.”

On Dec. 28, 2017, Zuerlein received recognition for outstanding service to her community and was awarded the USDA Rural Development Clerk of the Year for 2017 award.


Around 50 people gathered outside the Fairmont village office on New Year’s Eve to give retiring Village Clerk Linda Priefert Carroll Zuerlein a surprise send-off.

At that time, Fairmont Village Board Chairman Don Moses, who had worked with Zuerlein 15 years, said he was pleased she had received the award.

“Linda is very passionate toward the village, and it wouldn’t run without her. She’s a real plus, because she’s the first person people meet when they come to town,” Moses said. “She’s also very focused on the projects the village has.”

Zuerlein was born and raised on a farm in the rural Fairmont area by her parents, the late Jean and Neil Priefert, who were active in the Nebraska Hereford Association. She credits them for her life passion — seeing it and experiencing it through them. She has three daughters and three grandchildren who live in the area.

Zuerlein has mixed emotions about leaving her job.

“I regret that I am unable to continue to serve the residents of Fairmont due to my health issues,” Zuerlein said. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed promoting the Village of Fairmont.”

Wanda Marget, Fairmont Library director of over 30 years, has enjoyed working with Zuerlein.

“Linda always worked well with everyone and will be greatly missed,” Marget said. “When you walked in her office, she always had a smile on her face and strived to make things better, because she always had Fairmont in her heart.”

Congress opens new session as virus, Biden's win dominate
Congress has convened for a new session with lawmakers sworn into office during a tumultuous period
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WASHINGTON — Congress convened Sunday for the start of a new session, swearing in lawmakers during a tumultuous period as a growing number of Republicans work to overturn Joe Biden’s victory over President Donald Trump and the coronavirus surges.

Democrat Nancy Pelosi was reelected as House speaker by her party, which retains the majority in the House but with the slimmest margin in 20 years after a surprisingly strong GOP performance in the November election.

Opening the Senate could be among Mitch McConnell’s final acts as majority leader. Republican control is in question until Tuesday’s runoff elections for two Senate seats in Georgia. The outcome will determine which party holds the chamber.

The House and Senate were required to convene Sunday, by law, and imposed strict COVID-19 protocols. Elbow bumps replaced handshakes as senators took the oath of office. Fewer family members than usual joined lawmakers at the Capitol. A special enclosed seating section was designed for lawmakers in COVID-19 quarantine, but testing negative for the virus.

But by day’s end, House lawmakers were hugging and congratulating one another after taking the oath of office in the crowded chamber, an alarming scene during the pandemic.

“To say the new Congress convenes at a challenging time would be an understatement,” McConnell said as the chamber opened.

Still, McConnell said with the start of a new year there are reasons for optimism, “let’s make the American people proud.”

Pelosi said the top priority is defeating the coronvirus. And “defeat it we will,” she said to applause.

It’s often said that divided government can be a time for legislative compromises, but lawmakers are charging into the 117th Congress with the nation more torn than ever, disputing even basic facts including that Biden won the presidential election.

Fraud did not spoil the 2020 presidential election, a fact confirmed by election officials across the country. Before stepping down last month, Attorney General William Barr, a Republican appointed by Trump, said there was no evidence of fraud that affected the election’s outcome. Arizona’s and Georgia’s Republican governors, whose states were crucial to Biden’s victory, have also stated that their election results were accurate.

Nevertheless, a dozen Republicans bound for the new Senate, led by Sens. Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, and even more in the House have pledged to become a resistance force to Biden’s White House, starting with efforts to subvert the will of American voters. These GOP lawmakers plan to object to the election results when Congress meets on Wednesday to tally his 306-232 Electoral College victory over Trump.

Vice President Mike Pence, who as president of the Senate, presides over the session and declares the winner, is facing growing pressure from Trump’s allies over that ceremonial role.

Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, said in a statement Saturday that Pence “welcomes the efforts of members of the House and Senate to use the authority they have under the law to raise objections.”

Democrats, meanwhile, are pushing ahead, eager to partner with Biden on shared priorities, starting with efforts to stem the pandemic and economic crisis. They plan to revisit the failed effort to boost pandemic aid to $2,000 for most people.

“This has been a moment of great challenge in the United States of America filled with trials and tribulations, but help is on the way,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., the chairman of the House Democratic caucus, said in an interview.

“America is a resilient nation, filled with resilient people,” he said. “We will continue to rise to the occasion, emerge from this pandemic and continue to march toward our more perfect union.”

Among the House Republican newcomers are Trump-aligned Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who has given nod to conspiracy Q-Anon theories, and gun rights advocate Lauren Boebert of Colorado, who circulated a letter of support to retain the right of lawmakers to carry firearms in the Capitol.

Greene was among a group of House Republicans led by Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama who visited with Trump at the White House during the holiday season about their effort to undo the election.

The “Jan. 6 challenge is on,” Taylor Greene said in a tweet pinned to the top of her social media account. Boebert also tweeted support for those challenging Biden’s victory.

House Republicans boosted their ranks in the November election, electing a handful of women and minorities, more than ever. Some of the new GOP lawmakers are being called the “Freedom Force,” and a counter to the “squad” — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and other liberal Democratic women who swept to office in the last session.

In a statement Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the minority leader, said the new Republican members “are a strong representation of who America is and where we come from.”

Progressive Democrats bolstered their ranks with newcomers aligned with more liberal priorities.

The Capitol itself is a changed place under coronavirus restrictions. Lawmakers are arriving in Washington from all parts of the country potentially exposed to the virus during their travel.

Several lawmakers have been sickened by the virus and some will be absent Sunday. Also, a memorial was held Saturday for newly elected Republican lawmaker Luke Letlow, 41, of Louisiana, who died of complications from COVID-19 days before the swearing in.

The Office of the Attending Physician has issued several lengthy memos warning lawmakers off meeting in groups or holding traditional receptions to prevent the spread of the virus. Masks have been ordered worn at all times and Pelosi has required them to be used in the House chamber. Members are required to have coronavirus tests and have access to vaccines.

“Do not engage any in-person social events, receptions, celebrations, or appointments, outside your family unit, and always wear a face covering outside your home,” the physician’s office warned in one memo.

Even the traditional swearing in ceremonies will be limited in the House. No more big family portraits with new lawmakers taking the oath of office. Instead, each representative-elect can bring one guest in line with social distancing protocols. The day’s session lasted into evening so lawmakers could vote spaced out in groupings.

The vice president typically swears in the senators and Pence elbow-bumped senators as he did.

Pelosi, who is returning as speaker, the first woman to hold the job, faced a tight race, with the House split 222-211, with one race still undecided and one vacancy after Letlow’s death.

The California Democrat won a majority of those present and voting to retain the speaker’s gavel.

Fauci: Vaccinations are increasing in a 'glimmer of hope'
Federal health officials say the U.S. ramped up COVID-19 vaccinations in the past few days after a slower-than-expected start, bringing to the number of shots dispensed to about 4 million
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The U.S. ramped up COVID-19 vaccinations in the past few days after a slower-than-expected start, bringing the number of shots dispensed to about 4 million, government health officials said Sunday.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious-disease expert, also said on ABC's “This Week” that President-elect Joe Biden's pledge to administer 100 million shots of the vaccine within his first 100 days in office is achievable.

And he rejected President Donald Trump's false claim on Twitter that coronavirus deaths and cases in the U.S. have been greatly exaggerated.

“All you need to do ... is go into the trenches, go into the hospitals, go into the intensive care units and see what is happening. Those are real numbers, real people and real deaths,” Fauci said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The U.S. death toll has climbed past 350,000, the most of any country, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, while more than 20 million people nationwide have been infected. States have reported record numbers of cases over the past few days, and funeral homes in Southern California are being inundated with bodies.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said the pandemic is getting worse in his city as the virus spreads rapidly within households and people let their guard down with news of a vaccine's arrival. “This is a virus that preys off of our weakness, preys off of our exhaustion,” he said on CBS' "Face the Nation.”

Experts believe that the real numbers of U.S. deaths and infections are much higher and that many cases were overlooked, in part because of insufficient testing.

Fauci said he has seen “some little glimmer of hope” after 1.5 million doses were administered in the previous 72 hours, or an average of about 500,000 per day, a marked increase in vaccinations. He said that brings the total to about 4 million.

He acknowledged the U.S. fell short of its goal of having 20 million doses shipped and distributed by the end of December.

“There have been a couple of glitches. That’s understandable,” Fauci said. “We are not where we want to be, there’s no doubt about that.”

But he expressed optimism that the momentum will pick up by mid-January and that ultimately the U.S. will be vaccinating 1 million people a day. Biden's "goal of vaccinating 100 million people in the first 100 days is a realistic goal,” Fauci said.

Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the chief science adviser to Operation Warp Speed, the government’s vaccine development and distribution effort, told CBS that 17.5 million doses have been shipped. About 13 million of those have been distributed to clinics, hospitals and other places where they will be administered, according to Fauci.

The 20 million-dose goal hasn't been reached in part because local health departments and medical facilities had to stay focused on testing to handle a surge in cases, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said. And the holiday season meant health workers were taking time off, he said.

“I don’t want anyone to think I’m being Pollyannish here. There’s what we delivered, and we hope that those will be translated into vaccinations. That has not occurred to the way that we would like,” Adams said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

On Sunday morning, Trump falsely tweeted that the outbreak has been “far exaggerated” because of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's “ridiculous” methodology. He complained, too, that Fauci has been credited by the news media with doing “an incredible job” when Fauci “works for me and the Trump Administration, and I am in no way given any credit for my work."

Fauci and others are warning that an additional surge is likely because of holiday gatherings and the cold weather keeping people indoors.

“It could and likely will get worse in the next couple of weeks, or at least maintain this very terribly high level of infections and deaths that we’re seeing," Fauci said.

Arizona on Sunday reported a one-day record of more than 17,200 new cases, eclipsing the previous mark of about 12,000 set in early December. Health officials said the jump appears to reflect infections from Christmas gatherings but was also probably inflated by a reporting lag over New Year's weekend.

North Carolina and Texas reported record numbers of people in the hospital with COVID-19 — nearly 3,600 and over 12,500, respectively..

Overseas, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said more onerous lockdown restrictions in England are likely as a variant of the coronavirus has pushed infection rates to their highest levels on record. More than 50,000 new infections have been reported daily over the past six days.

Scientists have said the variant is up to 70% more contagious. While Fauci said the U.S. needs to do its own study, he noted that British researchers believe that the mutated version is no deadlier or more likely to make people sicker and that vaccines are effective against it.

But Scott Gottlieb, a former U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioner who serves on the board of vaccine maker Pfizer, said on “Face the Nation” that the variant “really creates more urgency around trying to get this vaccine out more quickly and get more people vaccinated."

Associated Press writers worldwide contributed to this report.