Restricting in-person interactions is an important technique for limiting the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2). Although early research found strong associations between cell phone mobility and infection spread during the initial outbreaks in the United States, it is unclear whether this relationship persists across locations and time. We propose an interpretable statistical model to identify spatiotemporal variation in the association between mobility and infection rates. Using 1 year of US county-level data, we found that sharp drops in mobility often coincided with declining infection rates in the most populous counties in spring 2020. However, the association varied considerably in other locations and across time. Our findings are sensitive to model flexibility, as more restrictive models average over local effects and mask much of the spatiotemporal variation. We conclude that mobility does not appear to be a reliable leading indicator of infection rates, which may have important policy implications.

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