By Jarrett Renshaw and Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Joe Biden will resume a Washington tradition of speaking at the White House Correspondents Association dinner on Saturday night, the first president to speak at the annual event since 2016.
After being canceled for two years due to COVID-19 pandemic and boycotted by Donald Trump during his presidency, the event returns this year with gusto, featuring remarks by comedian Trevor Noah.
More than 20 WHCA-related parties are being staged around Washington before and after the major event on Saturday night and multiple senior administration officials will attend as well as a smattering of celebrities from the entertainment world.
However, a recent rise in COVID-19 cases in Washington, in particular an outbreak at the journalists' white-tie Gridiron dinner early in April, has brought an undercurrent of caution to the White House dinner.
Organizers are requiring every attendee be tested for the virus, and some top officials, including infectious disease expert Dr. Antony Fauci, have dropped out.
The White House said Biden will take extra precautions at the event - skipping the dinner portion and attend only the speakers program, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday. He may opt to wear a mask when he is not speaking.
Asked what Biden will tell the crowd, Psaki said: "I will lower expectations and say it's not funny at all."
In recent weeks, the president has mostly been unmasked at crowded White House events, but those events had lower attendance than Saturday's dinner, which is expected to seat about 2,600 journalists, Washington officials and celebrities.
The White House Correspondents Association was founded in 1914 and has held a dinner nearly every year since the first one in 1921 to celebrate the reporters who cover the presidency and raise money for scholarships.
(Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw and Steve Holland; editing by Heather Timmons and Marguerita Choy)