Dr. Anthony Fauci, an official with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), seemed to acknowledge in congressional testimony Thursday that the U.S. was not adequately prepared to monitor a disease like the coronavirus.
His comments came during a hearing in which Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Fla., asked him whether there was someone who could ensure that coronavirus tests are administered in the U.S.
"The system is not really geared to what we need right now -- what you are asking for -- that is a failing ... Let's admit it," he told the congresswoman.
"The fact is the way the system was set up is that the public health component ... was a system where you put it out there in the public and a physician asks for it and you get it. The idea of anybody getting it easily, the way people in other countries are doing it -- we're not set up for that," Fauci added. "Do I think we should be? Yes, but we're not."
Wasserman-Schultz responded by calling that assessment "really disturbing."
Fauci's comments came after President Trump announced a travel ban on people coming from Europe. That excluded U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
Fauci serves as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and is helping to lead the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic.
During a Wednesday hearing, Fauci told the House Oversight Committee that the pandemic would get worse.
"Bottom line, it's going to get worse," Fauci said when asked for a prediction by committee chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. The National Institutes of Health's official explained that this is due to what he called "community spread" and the difficulty in containing the virus.
Fauci said that "although we are containing it in some respects, we keep getting people coming in from the country that are travel-related, we’ve seen that in many of the states that are now involved." This, in addition to community spread, "makes the challenge much greater," he said, adding, "So I can say we will see more cases and things will get worse than they are right now."
On Wednesday night, President Trump remained optimistic, telling Americans: "The virus will not have a chance against us. No nation is more prepared, or more resilient."
Fox News' Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.