Tourism-reliant Hawaii is looking for ways to draw visitors back -- and keep businesses alive -- without prompting a spike in new coronavirus cases. Beginning Oct. 15, Hawaii began allowing out-of-state travelers to skip a mandatory quarantine period if they test negative for Covid-19 during the 72 hours before their flight, but visitor numbers are still nearly 80% below their year-ago levels. Officials have also floated the idea of opening up blocks of hotel rooms for mainland employees to come and telework on the islands for several months at a time. But any increase in tourism will likely come too late for some businesses: a survey taken in the summer found that, without an earlier reopening, nearly one in five businesses didn't expect to survive. And once the changes take effect, hotel and restaurant owners say they're skeptical there will be enough visitors during the rest of this year to justify rehiring staff and opening their doors again. Hawaii's unemployment rate was the highest of any state in October, at 15.1%.
Written by Kim Mackrael ; Photographed by Shafkat Anowar