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Editor's Note: Navigating a Summer of Mixed Messages

July 28, 2021
As our world hungers for normalcy and a true end to the pandemic, "discretion is still the better part of valor" for an industry eager to provide solutions.

Try as I might, it is difficult not to be struck by the incongruity of several conflicting images in this, our second pandemic summer of the 21st century.

As the delayed Summer Olympics finally play out to empty stands before leftover “Tokyo 2020” signage on one television channel, scenes of packed U.S. baseball stadiums fill the screen on others.

Similarly, more than 65,000 jubilant basketball fans hugged and high-fived in the streets of downtown Milwaukee last week after the local NBA Bucks won their first championship in 50 years. And even as I write this, the City of Chicago is preparing to host its annual outdoor Lollapalooza music festival. Canceled last year, the four-day event is expected to draw more than 100,000 attendees per day. Attendees are required either to be vaccinated or to show proof of a fresh negative COVID-19 test. But the enforcement piece is what has the locals worried, especially if the new Delta variant decides to crash the show.

Of course, as the spouse of an elementary school teacher, my summer once again is marked by anxiety toward the fast-approaching new school year, and another national scramble to make in-person education as safe as possible for returning students and teachers. But as I wrote in my June 30 story on inflation:

Twelve months ago, we were also facing a very uncertain summer. But 300 million vaccinations later, America is in a vastly different place this July. Granted, the national economic stage may be cluttered with more obstacles than we would like now, but it is still set for an epic recovery.

I still believe that.

(By the way, that’s the first time I’ve ever quoted myself in a story!)

Another big difference this summer is the availability of new federal funding to help schools improve indoor air quality and upgrade existing ventilation and filtration systems. ASHRAE and the Centers for Disease Control have continued to issue updated guidance for schools and other commercial and industrial structures. So, I encourage you to keep checking to see the latest.

Toward that end, we now also have a new Webinar available on demand on our website in the Members Only section. Entitled, Making the Most of Federal COVID Funds for School IAQ Upgrades, the one-hour session was led by Paul Tseng, P.E., and Ed Light, CIH, as previewed here in our last print issue. The insights and tips are most valuable and timely, so if you work in the education market, I encourage you to access the event at

Also on our website is a new video series, Boiling It Down, which will regularly share practical insights and handy how-to advice for boiler operation and maintenance best practices. The videos are produced and compiled by the knowledgeable and remarkably prolific content creators at WARE, a family-owned, third-generation, commercial and industrial boiler rental and service firm based in Louisville KY. So, look for much more of that informative content to be posted as we head into fall.

Of course, aside from back-to-school, this fall also promises more in-person events across the U.S. In late June, the American Boiler Manufacturers Association’s return to an in-person, hybrid summer meeting went well, so expect to see more in our industry, all leading toward AHR Expo 2022 in Las Vegas next January. Beforehand, Endeavor Business Media’s own Facilities Expo just announced a slate of in-person events for HPAC engineers this summer and fall. For details, visit

Even so, we all know now that nothing is cast in stone.

So, personally and professionally, please stay vigilant.

As the veteran sergeant on Hill Street Blues always used to tell his officers at the start of every morning shift, “Be careful out there.”

Always good advice. 


About the Author

Rob McManamy | Editor in Chief

An industry reporter and editor since 1987, McManamy joined HPAC Engineering in September 2017, after three years with, a Chicago-based media startup focused on tech innovation in the built environment. He has been covering design and construction issues for more than 30 years, having started at Engineering News-Record (ENR) in New York, before becoming its Midwest Bureau Chief in 1990. In 1998, McManamy was named Editor-in-Chief of Design-Build magazine, where he served for four years. He subsequently worked as an editor and freelance writer for Building Design + Construction and Public Works magazines.

A native of Bronx, NY, he is a graduate of both the University of Virginia, and The John Marshall Law School in Chicago.

Contact him at [email protected].