We apply tools from functional data analysis to model cumulative trajectories of COVID-19 cases across countries, establishing a framework for quantifying and comparing cases and deaths across countries longitudinally. It emerges that a country’s trajectory during an initial first month ``priming period” largely determines how the situation unfolds subsequently. We also propose a method for forecasting case counts, which takes advantage of the common, latent information in the entire sample of curves, instead of just the history of a single country. Our framework facilitates to quantify the effects of demographic covariates and social mobility on doubling rates and case fatality rates through a time-varying regression model. Decreased workplace mobility is associated with lower doubling rates with a roughly two week delay, and case fatality rates exhibit a positive feedback pattern.