CNN  — 

President Donald Trump said Sunday night that the USNS Comfort, docked in New York, could be used for coronavirus patients if needed.

“That was not supposed to be for the virus at all and under circumstances. It looks like more and more we’ll be using it for that,” Trump told reporters at a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House. “The ship is ready and if we need it for the virus, we’ll use it for that.”

The USNS Comfort had originally been designated as a space for non-coronavirus patients to alleviate the pressure from New York hospitals.

New York City’s hospitals have been overwhelmed with coronavirus cases and are struggling to respond to patients streaming in. A shortage of personal protective equipment has also placed medical workers at risk of contracting the virus.

The US coronavirus death toll is now more than triple that of the 9/11 attacks, with almost half of the known pandemic-related deaths in New York.

There are at least 331,151 cases of coronavirus in the US, according to Johns Hopkins University’s latest tally of cases. At least 9,441 people have died in the nation from the virus.

During the briefing, Trump claimed that the US has tested and given results to over 1.6 million people for the coronavirus. He also said that the Abbott Laboratory will produce 1,200 of their 15-minute coronavirus test weekly.

Pearl Harbor moment

Earlier Sunday, the US surgeon general said this week is going to be the “hardest and the saddest” for “most Americans’ lives,” describing the upcoming period of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States as a “Pearl Harbor moment” and a “9/11 moment.”

“This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment, only it’s not going to be localized, it’s going to be happening all over the country and I want America to understand that,” Vice Admiral Jerome Adams said on “Fox News Sunday.”

During the Sunday evening press briefing, Trump struck an optimistic tone, saying that “we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.” He added that “in the not too distant future” America will be “very proud of the job we all did.”

However, the nation’s top infectious disease expert said earlier Sunday that the government is struggling to get the coronavirus under control.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who serves on the White House coronavirus task force, warned Americans in an interview on CBS that “it is going to be a bad week” ahead as there is an escalation in cases, but that “within a week” or so the number of cases should start to flatten out.

“Are you saying, doctor, despite the deaths that we may see, that mitigation is working, and that you do have this outbreak under control?” CBS’ Margaret Brennan asked Fauci.

“I will not say we have it under control, Margaret. That would be a false statement. We are struggling to get it under control, and that’s the issue that’s at hand right now,” Fauci replied.

This story has been updated with additional developments from Sunday’s White House press briefing.