Coronavirus: Curbside can-collector in Burlington not worried

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Lionel Persinger, 62, has noticed an uptick in hard-liquor consumption in Burlington during the coronavirus-related lockdown.

Persinger should know: He collects curbside cans and bottles on recycling pickup days.

“I’d say liquor is up about 80 percent,” he estimated on Wednesday while working a stretch of South Winooski Avenue. “It’s amazing. It’s because people are staying at home.”

In contrast, Persinger hasn’t strayed much from routine these days, working alone, blue bin to blue bin.

He still works an eight-to-10 hour day. He still totes a jumbo-sized garbage bag.

Persinger is blind in one eye, and his “good one” one is clouded by glaucoma — circumstances that prevent him from spotting salvageable containers from a distance.

He gets up close to a bin. He reaches in, if necessary, up to his armpit: He’s a “digger,” he says, not a “topper” who sticks to a bin’s top layers.

As always, he wears gloves.

Is he worried about getting intimate with stuff that has passed the lips of folks who might have come down with COVID-19?

“I believe I am immune to it,” Persinger said. “I refuse to get the virus. I’m not letting it in. That’s the way I think.”

Still, he tries to maintain a six-foot distance from others. He wraps a thick scarf or a neck-warmer around his nose and mouth.

He cleans up and changes clothes when he gets home.

“Everyone else seems to be all crazy about it,” Persinger said. “My wife and daughter are, but I’m not. I’m not sick; I don’t feel sick. I feel fine.”

More personal stories: How Vermonters are facing life in the coronavirus era

Contact Joel Banner Baird at 802-660-1843 or joelbaird@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @VTgoingUp.

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