More than any other infectious disease epidemic, the COVID-19 pandemic has been characterized by the generation of large volumes of viral genomic data at an incredible pace due to recent advances in high-throughput sequencing technologies, the rapid global spread of SARS-CoV-2, and its persistent threat to public health. However, distinguishing the most epidemiologically relevant information encoded in these vast amounts of data requires substantial effort across the research and public health communities. Studies of SARS-CoV-2 genomes have been critical in tracking the spread of variants and understanding its epidemic dynamics, and may prove crucial for controlling future epidemics and alleviating significant public health burdens. Together, genomic data and bioinformatics methods enable broad-scale investigations of the spread of SARS-CoV-2 at the local, national, and global scales and allow researchers the ability to efficiently track the emergence of novel variants, reconstruct epidemic dynamics, and provide important insights into drug and vaccine development and disease control. Here, we discuss the tremendous opportunities that genomics offers to unlock the effective use of SARS-CoV-2 genomic data for efficient public health surveillance and guiding timely responses to COVID-19.