Gov Ned Lamont tightened crowd restrictions Thursday night, limiting any gatherings to five people, demanded that restaurants take better control of their take-out foot traffic and told gun shop owners they can only open for customers by appointment.

In an order issued at about 9:30, Lamont suspended the state tax on plastic shopping bags, and freed supermarket employees from having to bag customers’ groceries.

A previous order had set a 50-person ceiling on crowds but in recent days Lamont said that crowds of any size can be unsafe.

“I’m going to be stricter than that,” Lamont said during a mid-afternoon news conference. “No more than five people in a social gathering, and less than that if you possibly can. If you’re taking a walk outside, when you’re seeing friends, stay apart and no more than five. This is really important, because even though young people are much less likely to have a severe condition from COVID, you’re just as likely to pass it along, either at home or to older folks. I really want to be strict on that.”

Lamont also ordered the suspension of school achievement tests for the year.

He said people over the age of 60 simply should stay home. “Don’t go out for shopping or anything else unless you have to,” he said.

Two more fatalities occurred since Wednesday, including an 80-year-old East Haven woman. There are 125 people hospitalized with COVID-19, he said, as well as 1,012 confirmed cases, up from Wednesday’s 875.

He asked that people who develop symptoms, including fever, to keep themselves at home for two weeks. “If you have any symptoms at all, assume its COVID-19 and go home, and stay there for 14 days,” he said. “Go home, self quarantine and 99 percent get better and those few who don’t, call your doctor and we’ll have you tested.”

In the East Haven case, “We are saddened to hear of any fatalities from this virus” Michael Pascucilla, director of health for the East Shore District Health Department, said in a release Thursday. “My thoughts and prayers are with the family of the individual in our district who died from complications due to the coronavirus.”

Mayor Jor Carfora again called on residents to practice social distancing and said the town “is recommending that all individuals both adults and children, stay home and not interact with individuals outside of the household.”

Appearing with U.S. Sens Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy for an hour with reporters in the State Capitol, Lamont said he hopes that Connecticut, with its proximity to the epicenter of the pandemic in New York, is awarded more than the billion dollars expected in the $2 trillion emergency legislation passed by the Senate and awaiting action in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Lamont hinted he would lift the 10-cent tax on plastic bags that has been in effect since Aug. 1. Health officials had complained that contamination can occur with the reusable bags shoppers bring in to supermarkets and grocers. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday nullified a similar law in his state.

Lamont Thursday also asked President Donald Trump to declare Connecticut a disaster area, to make it easier for state residents and businesses to seek aid.

The request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, if approved, could free up funding under a variety of federal programs, including unemployment assistance, counseling and legal services, child care and funeral assistance.

“This global pandemic is continuing to have a major impact on the lives of every person and entity in our state and around our county,” Lamont said in a statement. “If approved, this disaster declaration request will provide greatly needed assistance to our residents, as well as our local and state governments, so that we can try to bring some relief during this difficult and ongoing challenge.”

Several states already have been granted Major Disaster Declarations, which allows them to access more federal funding and aid from FEMA. New York was the first on March 20. Since then, the White House also has granted declarations for California, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, North Carolina, New Jersey, Texas, Illinois and Washington.

‘Bad actors’

In a related development, Attorney General William Tong, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz and state Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Michelle H. Seagull on Thursday told residents to beware of scams in which fraudulent emails, text messages and social media posts claim that they must fill out their 2020 U.S. Census forms to become eligible for federal stimulus checks that are part of a pending relief package in Washington.

“Bad actors are always looking for ways to profit off of people’s fears and anxieties,” Tong said in a statement. This new scam is no different. There is zero connection between your 2020 Census response and any economic stimulus aid. If you receive any text messages, phone calls or emails falsely claiming this, please report this to my office immediately.”

“You will not have to fill out the census to receive a stimulus check,” said Seagull. “Scammers often try to take advantage of us when we have something incredibly serious on our minds — and in this situation they’re using two critical things: the Census and COVID-19. Remember, that if someone threatens to take away money or benefits unless you surrender personal information, it’s likely a scam.”

Seagull and Tong also issued a set of guidelines for people to consider when they plan to donate to charities during the pandemic, including thoroughly researching the charity, and double-checking to see whether it is registered with the state.

Later in the day, Tong announced that he joined more than two-dozen attorneys general from throughout the country asking the U.S. Department of Education to provide aid for student loan borrowers during the public health crisis.

“With millions of Americans newly unemployed, the Department of Education must provide comprehensive, robust relief to student loan borrowers. Although it has already taken some positive steps, there is much more that the department can and must do to protect borrowers from mounting debt during this crisis,” Tong said.

Also on Thursday, the state judicial branch ordered three facilities closed indefinitely at the end of business Friday, including the Litchfield Judicial District courthouse in Torrington, the Geographical Area courthouse in Rockville, and the courthouse in Danielson. The Danbury courthouse was closed after business on Wednesday.

Emilie Munson contributed to this report.